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Tue Sep 30 20:19:26 SAST 2014

'Concourt would approve secrecy bill'

DENISE WILLIAMS | 30 November, 2012 00:39
Protesters in front of parliament before the National Assembly passed the secrecy bill this week Picture: SHELLEY CHRISTIANS

The ANC yesterday told opposition parties that it was not afraid of the Protection of State Information Bill being contested in the Constitutional Court. The ANC yesterday used its majority to push through what has become known as the secrecy bill.

The bill now needs only the National Assembly' s rubber stamp and President Jacob Zuma's signature to become law.

The vote was 34-16 in favour of the bill.

Opposition parties and pressure groups have threatened to take the matter to the Constitutional Court if Zuma signs the bill into law.

But ANC MP Sam Mazosiwe said the ruling party believed the Constitutional Court would not find fault with the bill.

"I don't think South Africans should be afraid if it goes to the Constitutional Court. The threat about taking this to the Constitutional Court will only strengthen the work of parliament," he said.

ANC MP Teboho Chaane said the party had been "very tolerant, accommodative and ridiculously fair" to critics of the bill.

"We stand here without any doubt in our minds that we have listened to the views of the people and have, to the best of our abilities, ensured that this bill passes constitutional muster," he said.

"You can go to the Constitutional Court; we are waiting for you," he said.

The bill has been widely criticised for its broad definitions of what constitutes "classified information" and who may classify or declassify it.

One of the thorniest issues is the punishment that could be doled out to whistle-blowers and journalists who possess or circulate classified or top secret information.

They could be sentenced to 25 years in jail, even if the information exposes government corruption or misconduct.

The bill has no public-interest defence clause.

Lobbyists have argued that the government could use the bill to classify information regarding municipal bills or bar reports on scandals such as Nkandlagate.

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Tue Sep 30 20:19:26 SAST 2014 ::