FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ON SAPA-PR-WIRE
LATEST PROPOSALS TO THE PROTECTION OF INFORMATION BILL
24 June 2011
The African National Congress has given very serious and careful consideration to many concerns expressed about certain provisions of the Protection of Information Bill [B6B-2010]. These concerns were expressed by members of the ANC, ordinary members of the public, civil society organizations and Members of Parliament, amongst others.
Given our history and the often horrific experiences we have had with our security services; and given the provisions of our Constitution which enjoins us to “recognise the injustices of our past”, the African National Congress wants to change the culture of secrecy.
The ANC believes that decisions taken by state departments and civil servants must be both justifiable and be able stand the test of accountability.
To this end the ANC, therefore, proposes that:
1. The scope of application of the Protection of Information Bill, insofar as it applies to the authority to classify information, such scope must be drastically reduced to apply only to the country’s security services.
2. An opt-in clause be provided for in the Bill which will allow organs of state or entities of state to apply to be allowed to classify information on good cause shown; 3. A retired judge be provided for in the appeals process; 4. The minimum sentences provisions in the Offences clause be removed, with the possible exception of the crime of espionage. Moreover, we must ensure that the penalties and sanctions in the Offences clause meet the test of proportionality; and 5. The Bill’s provisions must ensure that this legislation is not abused such that it is used to hide corruption and other serious offences.
The ANC believes that these proposed changes to this Bill will help meet the difficult and competing demands of national security within a rights-based, constitutional democracy such as ours.
The Office of the ANC Chief Whip
ANC Parliamentary Caucus
Parliament of the RSA
Cape Town, 8000
KADER Asmal did not die a bitter man, but who would have blamed him if he had? His political career in South Africa after his return from exile followed two distinct trajectories. The first encompassed his participation in the drafting of the constitution and his service in the cabinet of Nelson Mandela.
During that time, Asmal helped construct one of the world’s foremost progressive societies, one in which the rule of law held sway, but within a framework of compassionate, humanitarian values aimed at advancing the position of the poorest in society.
During that phase, he enjoyed the unqualified support — and frequent public admiration — of Mandela, who saw in him a fearless proponent of reconciliation.
It helped that Asmal had a wicked sense of humour, for the society that was being constructed was one in which the humanity of the people stood in the foreground, with the machinery of state at their service.
Among his contributions beyond the constitution were the formulation of guidelines prohibiting the sale of arms to countries where they would be used to suppress democracy or wage unjust wars.
And he drove the drafting of rules on the declaration of private assets and the acceptance of gifts by public figures.
The second trajectory began when he found himself sidelined under former president Thabo Mbeki.
He resigned as an MP to avoid having to vote in favour of the disbanding of the Scorpions.
He was to witness growing challenges to his life’s work from within ANC ranks.
The constitution he had helped craft became an object of derision by a rising cohort of populist leaders.
Transparency and openness gave way to opacity as some public officials amassed vast fortunes while still in office.
The sale of arms to whomever became strategically significant swept away the high standard he had set in this terrain, and now South African arms and vehicles can be seen suppressing democratic protests all over the world.
Asmal found himself increasingly on the outside, one of only a handful of voices speaking out against the erosion of the country’s founding democratic values.
Finally he found himself outside the parliament he had helped to bring to life, addressing those protesting against the Protection of Information Bill about the need to fight against this pernicious legislation.
He occupied high office within the government, but that was a means, not an end. When the time came for him to stand with the protestors outside parliament, he did not hesitate to do so.
His was a life of service to the idea of a great South African society. Long may his legacy live.
*This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times
THE beauty of the ANC’s freshly released document, “Media Transformation, Ownership and Diversity” is the party’s refreshing admission that it loathes criticism.
But to get to the honesty you first have to negotiate the doublespeak. The invention of the term “doublespeak” has been wrongly attributed to George Orwell. But Orwell did invent the notion of “doublethink”.
Here’s the sentence in which it first made an appearance: “His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them …”
The ANC’s document starts out as a sermon: “All of us have a responsibility to defend media freedom and editorial independence from any form of compulsion, be it political, economic or commercial.”
But the next paragraph starts with the telling qualification, “However”, and it is downhill from there. Sentences such as this appear: “(A) Cursory scan on the print media reveals an astonishing degree of dishonesty, lack of professional integrity and lack of independence.”
And: “The abuse of positions of power, authority and public trust to promote narrow, selfish interests and political agendas inimical to our democracy. This points to the fact that the problem of what is called ‘brown envelope’ journalism. This type of rot is a much more serious problem than the media is willing to admit.”
And the remedy? The “ownership and control” of the media must be addressed. “Freedom of expression needs to be defended but freedom of expression can also be a refuge for journalist scoundrels, to hide mediocrity and glorify truly unprofessional conduct. Freedom of expression means that there should be objective reporting and analysis which is not coloured by prejudice and self-interest.”
The proposal is that a Media Appeals Tribunal be established. Such a tribunal, the ANC is at pains to stress, would be accountable to parliament “instead of the ANC with all its bias and firm views”. It is hard to share the ANC’s faith in the independence of its MPs.
The truth about the media is very different to that which this document offers. The lion’s share of South Africa’s radio and television stations, which the ANC acknowledges reach an audience more than double that of print media, fall under the ambit of the public broadcaster, which some view as all but an official mouthpiece of the ruling party.
South Africa’s press is robust, highly competitive and diverse and, in the case of this newspaper’s owners, Avusa, has a strong empowerment shareholding.
But that’s not good enough. The ANC wants the mirror to say it is the fairest in the land, every hour, every day.
Budget Speech by Pravin Gordhan, February 17, 2010
It is my privilege to present the first budget of the administration of President Zuma
to this House.
Last week we had the special honour of hosting former President Mandela in
Parliament. He exuded his inimitable magic. He reminded us of what we have
achieved in our struggle for freedom and in our democratic journey. He reminded us
that South Africans are capable of extraordinary things. We are, as you also
reminded us, Mr President, an extraordinary people.
Twenty years ago, we showed the world that we could unite around a common
cause – a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa. We showed ourselves,
and the world, that we could compete politically and yet find a shared understanding
on matters of concern to all of us – building a better South Africa for our children and
grandchildren. Read More…
THERE were some bright spots in Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation speech. He claimed he will hold ministers to account and develop a smarter, better administration. And he promised to overhaul schooling by getting classes to start on time. Yes, this is something we should be grateful for, believe it or not.
What was lacking was a vision, a direction, an idea to drive South Africa Inc. What are our strengths and weaknesses? How are we going to press home our strategic advantages on the world stage. What is our industrial development plan?
Instead we got a well-worn list of priorities that is, frankly, unconvincing. The pastiche of promises on jobs, crime and the like felt like luke-warm porridge served after a quick stir as fresh food.
Zuma’s planning and monitoring ministeries are supposed to provide him with the weapons to develop this sort of critical focus, but they seem to be operating with the urgency of a home affairs teller.
All of this means that we will continue to fall behind a world where competition for investment is ruthless and where the tolerance for governments that increase social spending even as their revenues fall is minimal.
Zuma could at least have used this stage to try and rebuild the credibility of his office. He might not know it but he is the running joke at the taxi ranks at the moment. He appears oblivious/unwilling/unable to address this crisis of legitimacy.
A lost opportunity.
I stand before you this evening, 20 years since President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela walked out of prison.
We have chosen this as the day to call this Joint Sitting of Parliament to deliver the State of the Nation Address, to celebrate a watershed moment that changed our country.
The release of Madiba was brought about by the resolute struggles of the South African people.
You will recall that the masses of this country, in their different formations, responded with determination to the call to make the country ungovernable and apartheid unworkable.
We are celebrating this day with former political prisoners who we have specially invited to join us.
We welcome in particular those who have travelled from abroad to be here, Helene Pastoors, Michael Dingake from Botswana, Mr Andimba Toivo ya Toivo of SWAPO in Namibia.
We are pleased to be joined by members of the legal team in the Rivonia Treason trial – Lord Joel Joffe, who is now based in London and Judge Arthur Chaskalson.
We also remember and pay tribute to Mr Harry Schwarz, who sadly passed away last week.
He was amongst other things, a member of the Rivonia defence team.
We extend our gratitude to our friends and comrades in the international community, for fighting side by side with us to achieve freedom.
We extend a special welcome to the Mandela family. Read More…
Mr Speaker, Members of Parliament.
THE GENERAL ELECTIONS on September the 6th, 1989, placed our country irrevocably on the road of drastic change. Underlying this is the growing realisation by an increasing number of South Africans that only a negotiated understanding among the representative leaders of the entire population is able to ensure lasting peace.
The alternative is growing violence, tension and conflict. That is unacceptable and in nobody’s interest. The well-being of all in this country is linked inextricably to the ability of the leaders to come to terms with one another on a new dispensation. No-one can escape this simple truth. Read More…
THERE are alarming signs that Cope is disintegrating. It has lost Allan Boesak, a man who should never have been elevated to a leadership role in the first place, given his dodgy past. But once Cope decided it wanted Boesak on board, it went for the lose-lose option.
Boesak damaged its image as a party offering “change”. He symbolised politics as usual. Now they have lost again as he departs from Cope while firing a broadside at the party. This from Sapa:
“I have today informed the leadership of Cope that I am ending my membership of the party and that I have tendered my resignation as a member of the Western Cape provincial legislature with immediate effect,” said Boesak.
“From the very beginning the party structures, such as they were, were characterised by faction fighting, strife, pitched battles for political supremacy and duplicity…
“At this point the party structures continue to be in disarray,” he said.