Ruling party MPs should hang their heads in shame
The Times Editorial: As expected, the ANC used its majority to steamroll through the Protection of State Information Bill yesterday, brushing aside sustained protests from the media, the opposition and even its alliance partner Cosatu.
The ruling party was not moved by expressions of concern by the public protector, the SA Human Rights Commission and international rights group Amnesty International about the proposed law - which seeks to criminalise the possession and publication of a hopelessly broad category of information classified, at the behest of any government agency, without any provision for a public interest defence.
Critics of the bill say it will have the effect of shielding exposure of rampant official corruption and intimidate whistle-blowers into staying silent.
The passage of the bill came as Transparency International said yesterday that about 60% of respondents in a survey believed that corruption had increased under President Jacob Zuma, while 12% said it had dropped.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko made an impassioned plea to ANC MPs to break ranks and vote with their consciences, warning that the bill "will unstitch the very fabric of our constitution". But it was not to be, and the bill was passed with a clear majority. The draft law, described as a "toxic gruel" by former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces and then to Zuma for his signature.
If he fails to return it to parliament, it will be challenged in the Constitutional Court.
South Africa's reputation internationally as a paragon of democratic values has been sliding in recent years, with many critics accusing the ANC of departing from the progressive and liberal policies of the Mandela era.
Far from protecting South Africa from spies and "information pedlars", as the securocrats would have us believe, this regressive bill will cause our nation incalculable harm.