Madonsela pleads with MPs over info bill

2012-03-28 18:52

Cape Town - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has pleaded with MPs to rethink key aspects of the protection of state information bill, saying it would "severely" affect her work.

Madonsela told them on Wednesday that the bill, as it stood, would shrink her powers and bedevil investigations into state wrongdoing.

It would reduce her to the status of an ordinary citizen because it would oblige her to hand classified information to the police like anyone else.

Likewise, it would strip away the right she currently held to access classified information in the course of her duty, instead forcing her to go to court to obtain it like any other South African.

Won’t be toothless

"The public protector is directly affected by this bill," she told the second day of public hearings in Parliament on the contentious draft law.

"We will not be toothless, but we are going to function under more onerous circumstances."

She said the obligation clause 15 of the bill created for those who received classified information to hand it to the police to avoid prosecution posed the risk of her being arrested while she was studying any of the secret documents delivered to her office almost daily.

"Will I be affected? Yes, severely. At the moment I'm not chasing around trying to find out what documents came to my office and which police station do I rush to report it. I don't want to do that.

"Unfortunately, Parliament has elevated the police above chapter nine institutions. Why does this democracy trust a police station above chapter nine institutions?" she asked.

Madonsela said that at the moment, she had the prerogative to scrutinise any information sent to her office to see how it should be handled, but this would become a perilous exercise if the bill were passed.

Unintended consequences

"What if I am arrested while I'm applying my mind?" she asked, adding: "Probably the same could happen to journalists."

Madonsela tactfully suggested that the bill's impact on her office was one of a number of unintended consequences of the legislation, but baulked when ANC MP Nosipho Ntwanambi asked why the person in her post should not be treated in the same manner as ordinary South Africans.

"When a member of Parliament says you should be subject to the same rights and responsibilities as a person in the street, it scares me.

"My responsibility is to be some kind of buffer between the state and the citizen."

Madonsela said she did not believe the bill should include a special exemption for her office, but rather a chapter recognising the special status of all similar institutions, in the same manner that it enshrined the special powers of courts.


"What I am asking Parliament to accept is that chapter nine institutions were created by you as an accountability mechanism, and you should give them the space to exercise that responsibility."

Madonsela called for the inclusion of a public interest defence in the bill, rejecting State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele's oft-repeated argument that this would lead to the wholesale publication of state secrets.

"Will it open the floodgates? No, I don't think so."

She said such a defence would have to withstand an objective test on whether the public good derived from publication of a classified document outweighed the risk to the national security.

Like many other critics of the legislation, she said its definition of national security was too wide and it could pave the way for over-classification.

Asked whether she was flatly declaring the bill unconstitutional, Madonsela declined to answer but impressed on MPs that rethinking the bill could spare them the potential embarrassment of having it declared invalid by the courts.

"You have the power to prevent this matter being settled by a court of law," she said.

  • bluzulu - 2012-03-28 19:28

    Listen to our next President, you rascals.

      Simnikiwe - 2012-03-28 19:29

      Bluzulu...are you even South AFrican?

      Francois - 2012-03-28 19:41

      Simnikiwe, he said "our" and referred to Madonsela who is South African - did you fail to make the correlation? Why do you think he is not?

      maseratifittipaldi - 2012-03-28 20:02

      bluzulu? If only. This lady will unite the nation and make us all proud South Africans. She will not be able to do this as a member of the ANC, though. There is just too much negative pressure from that side.

      Templeton - 2012-03-28 20:44

      The current Bill was passed on in 1982 under the appartheid government. They are not changing the entire contents of the bill, maybe they won't even change it at all, just a few ammendments perhaps.

      Francois - 2012-03-28 23:04

      Templeton, you need to read more news on your computer or in the paper. A bill is not passed on, it is just passed except if you directly translate from a gibberish Afrikaans "aangepas" then the "on" is correct, but the "passed" not. This bill was changed under the first government of Mandela to ensure that it adheres to the constitution so that government can actually be held accountable, or are you saying that this was the last piece of apartheid legislation on our statutes? The last resounding change of apartheid laws was more than a year ago when it stated that all marriages shoul be terminated at the same court - thus valueing non - white marriages (which could be terminated in the local magistrate court) as important as a white marriage. Or maybe you are a student belonging to a far right cultural movement that is just looking for fun on this Wednesday evening? Even if it is that, its okay, but the truth is actually out there now, and you can learn from it or hide behind your ignorance or laugh at your joke. Enjoy your evening.

      Antonio - 2012-03-31 08:30

      Again, an example of the "national interest" equated with the "ANC interest. As the saying goes, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. But when that loyalty is defined even more narrowly, what does that say about the scoundrel?

      Antonio - 2012-03-31 08:31

      Sorry, I was referring to Simnikiwe's comment.

  • reflection.moment - 2012-03-28 19:29

    thank you so much for such realization at this early hours of dooms day. ANC should know that PP is independent unlike the judiciary they are trying to dictate. Now lets look at the broader picture. What purpose did this bill intend to accomplish and who is it really protecting, ANC or the state, nxa phambebe lo ANC.

      Danny Mothobi - 2012-03-28 19:38

      Amanda, Cde Madonsela, on the matter of context, rational and philosophy, on synergy and protocol, these are the sort of engagements we need...., this is kind of leadership we need, asikhulume....mgabulo('spelling')

  • Bless Boswell - 2012-03-28 19:35

    Why appoint a public protector of you're going to render her powerless? The energy the ruling party expend in pushing this bill through will reflect how much they have to hide ... Don't you think?

      sachasea - 2012-03-29 05:59

      It's called window dressing.

  • Mtheza - 2012-03-28 19:35

    The bill is just to protect the corrupt especialy the government MPs

  • Mtheza - 2012-03-28 19:35

    The bill is just to protect the corrupt especialy the government MPs

  • rudi.strydom2 - 2012-03-28 19:43

    Give that girl a Bells!!

      Glyn - 2012-03-28 21:48

      Give her a Captain Morgan!

      Scouter - 2012-03-28 22:18

      Give her a whole case - she deserves it. I do hope somebody is watching her back, without being dramatic.

  • Muhammed - 2012-03-28 19:48

    A huge thumbs up for Public Protector Thuli Madonsela!!!

      Sharon - 2012-03-28 22:26

      Thuli Madonsela is my absolute hero! She has my utmost respect.

      npretorius2 - 2012-03-29 10:06

      Thuli for president!!

  • Morne - 2012-03-28 19:53

    Tell me if I got this right... The institution to protect the public against corruption should be treated as nothing more than a member of public according to this twat Nosipho Ntwanambi? Wake up South Africa! Not only is your government stealing from you on a daily basis depriving you and everyone around you of your basic human rights as stated in the constitution, they are removing any form of dignity and power you still might have. What will it take for people to say that enough is enough? The BIG Cosato strike again labour brokering and tolling is also now removed from the public sphere where discussions (read deals) are conducted behind closed doors where NO information will be made public (on what was discussed and agreed upon). So really... When do you say enough is enough?

  • lavida.locca - 2012-03-28 19:57

    i like ur balls

  • lavida.locca - 2012-03-28 19:57

    i like ur balls

  • Lynda - 2012-03-28 19:58

    Wow hope they listen to you.....fear it may be too late!

  • maseratifittipaldi - 2012-03-28 20:08

    Each and every MP should be interviewed on radio and this interview should also appear in the printed and electronic media: How do the people in your constituency feel about the PIB? Do you support/oppose this Bill? Why? If you had to vote on this Bill, how would you vote? Why?

  • Cassandra Olivier - 2012-03-28 20:09

    The bill is to protect criminals like zuma

  • Morama - 2012-03-28 20:18

    Even if they can amend this...the court bof law would not be intheir favour.Can any ANC member tell me as to what is it that they are hiding....ANC is the political aprty that has been secretive from day one un till today and they don't realise that they are now running the country.FFS!!!

  • manyanyaphiri - 2012-03-28 20:20

    Well said! Personally, though, I think Bill was inspired for Mr Zuma's need2shore up his own brand of regionalism pro-KwaZulu-Natal. As u might know, regionalism, tribalism and racism don't exist outside of government-power paradigm. And every time there's evidence of such in govt,you'd need to access so-called classified and "state-secrets documentation" in order2prove a racist or Zulu-tribalist appointment or corruption by a major government player (or you would need to divulge such if you're a whistle-blower). Consequently, u, as a whistle-blower, would end up being viciously victimized with more than ten years in an unwarranted gaol for doing the good of uprooting what the constitution of the republic clearly proscribes: Racism (of which tribalism and regionalism are but mere subsets). Incidentally, I'm one of those perhaps few people who believe there is no white racism at all in South Africa can there be such when the country is ruled by a "black" president fully-equiped with an anti-racism constitution? The only racism that can and does exist is "black" and very tribalistic with the rest of the reports about "white racists" being mere media hype and sensationalism aimed at diverting us from the main national goals. Plse read my thinking on the POIB on the following links:

      npretorius2 - 2012-03-29 10:09

      Well said...

  • marumobongani - 2012-03-28 20:22

    why?why?why?dont they have enough power already

  • Maruis - 2012-03-28 20:40

    Respect. You work hard trying to inform the public of what is really going on in SA. But cANCer has gripped the country. The less you do the more you get rewarded. The more they pocket the more they want the bill to pass.

  • Erich - 2012-03-28 20:40

    It is going to take many years and a number of changes in government before our police force will be on par again. If the police are tasked in the proposed legislation with the duty of receiving classified information it would spell the end of a democracy. I can't understand the ANC's fixation with implementing measures that will end a free press and to reduce the effectiveness of Chapter nine institutions. It was the creation of these watchdog bodies that elevated our Constitution to the level where it is envied by many (more) developed countries.

  • wunku - 2012-03-28 20:53

    The sole reason for the secrecy bill was to protect the President and his comrades. Moreover does not serve the purpose of what the government should be working. "Dont fix what is not broken"

  • Templeton - 2012-03-28 21:02

    This Means :... Regulation of Information. We don't have a Right to Know. No access to documents held by the government. Is this about protecting Corrupt Government officials ?

      Francois - 2012-03-28 23:26

      Oops, do you have a troll using your picture? Now you claim to know the proposed bill? Which of your two posts are the correct one?

  • Mzansi - 2012-03-28 21:13

    I have echoed many a time that South Africa is slowly crawling towards a Military state. I point from the continuous recruitment of police and traffic officers(to the recruitment of the so called "berets"). Why so many officers when certain tasks can be combined into one and carried out by a single function. My observation is coming to bear with examples like the intended reduction of power of the Public Protector's office to be lower than the police (who I must add, have become the law to themselves-on a killing spree). The exponential increase in law inforcement officer is not justifiable - which explains the number of traffic officers you find at every corner in groups of 5 or more. For what, why so many? These signs signal the beginning of a military regime in South Africa. Where the government will be run by the barrel of the gun and (government)will have a large enough police force to exercise the plan.

  • Gordon - 2012-03-28 21:22

    I wonder if the ANC bigwigs sit and laugh at Thuli for pointing out the obvious.

  • chris.khanye - 2012-03-28 21:36

    It's a scary thought - the Public Protector having to first consult the police if she receives what would be perceived as a state secret? Which police is the ANC referring to - the ones who don't even know how to open a crimen injuria or worse, a rape case? Or the police who with their bosses are always caught offside of the law? And ANC MPs doesn't even recognize or know the significance of the Public Protector's office or its difference to the street committees marauding our townships. Recently,the Chief Whip of Parliament did let the cat out of the bag - most ANC MPs are ignorant of issues affecting their so-called constituencies. ANC MPs know zilch about why Ratanda, Kyasands, Balfour, Sakhile, Sharpville etc. is in flames today. ANC men and women in Ivory Towers - which reminds me of the wife of the President of Syria who doesn't understand why masses are revolting against dear hubby. The ANC simply wants to hide what is already institutionalized - RAMPANT CORRUPTION. And Police will act as the middleman between the state and the overly anxious masses. The ANC Info. Bill will herald the second coming of a Police State not long after what we had to endure under apartheid. 1994 - 2012: The honeymoon is over, next it will be the counter-revolutionary judiciary!

  • Scouter - 2012-03-28 21:57

    If this bill goes through, you can kiss SA goodbye and see it relegated in the eyes of the world to the ranks of Zimbabwe and every other tin-pot totalitarian state. Worrying, worrying, worrying as it represents a clear statement of intent - and that intent has no ones' interest at heart other than that of the present gluttonous, inept & corrupt disaster that is the ANC government.

  • sdiketane - 2012-03-28 22:43

    ...the fact is;this bill is only designed 2 make the Usual suspects (MPs & alliances) the Untouchables...

  • sdiketane - 2012-03-28 22:43

    ...the fact is;this bill is only designed 2 make the Usual suspects (MPs & alliances) the Untouchables...

  • pws69 - 2012-03-29 04:50

    I'm still waiting for someone to tell me exactly what state security has actually been exposed/compromised over the last 18 years that necessitates this bill.

  • Marina - 2012-03-29 08:12

    Madonsela told them on Wednesday that the bill, as it stood, would shrink her powers and bedevil investigations into state wrongdoing. That's exactly what they want Thuli.

  • Jan - 2012-03-29 08:39

    What a woman...

  • Dane - 2012-03-29 08:42

    This woman is amazing! I especially love the way she warned them toward the end "Asked whether she was flatly declaring the bill unconstitutional, Madonsela declined to answer but impressed on MPs that rethinking the bill could spare them the potential embarrassment of having it declared invalid by the courts. "You have the power to prevent this matter being settled by a court of law," she said."

  • Antonio - 2012-03-31 08:21

    I assume that the very same people who cried foul about Zille's "refugee" comment are the same people who are criticising those who oppose this totalitarian-like attempt to legislate South African citizens into national ignorance. If that is true, then by what feat of logic do those who object to being called "refugees in our own land" accept becoming blind and ignorant in their own land. This must be pure ideology at work, because it certainly isn't logic. Those who want to be free in one domain want to be free in all others. But here it is, those who want to be "free" want also to become "slaves". Please explain anyone.

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