ANC 'taking SA beyond apartheid'


Nobel laureate Nadine Gordimer has accused the ANC of taking South Africa beyond apartheid with its Protection of Information Bill.

Gordimer, speaking in Johannesburg at an 88th birthday celebration yesterday, said the bill goes "totally against all ideas of freedom".

"People have fought and died to gain the opportunity for a better life, which is ruined and dirtied by corruption.

"The corrupt practices and nepotism that they [politicians] allow themselves is exposed if we have freedom of expression. When we all voted together, which was a great moment in my life, [we thought] everything would be alright. That was a childish idea."

Her comments were made as protests about the Protection of Information Bill intensify. It is expected to be voted on tomorrow in the National Assembly.

Dene Smuts, the DA's spokesman for justice and constitutional development, said there was "quite a long way to go" before the bill was enacted.

Following tomorrow's vote, the bill will have to be voted on in the National Council of Provinces, which could refer it back to the National Assembly.

Smuts said she would petition President Jacob Zuma to refer the bill to the Constitutional Court to determine its constitutionality.

Yusuf Abramjee, chairman of the National Press Club, yesterday confirmed that the club had lodged a complaint about the Info Bill with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Abramjee said Madonsela's office had "a good track record of looking at things independently".

Abramjee said the club's major objection to the bill was its exclusion of a public interest defence and the harsh penalties journalists and whistle-blowers would face.

The club launched a renewed Black Wednesday campaign - evoking the events of October 19 1977, when the apartheid government banned two newspapers - and has asked that people wear black on Wednesday as a sign of their opposition to the bill.

The office of ANC chief whip Mathole Motshegka yesterday slammed the campaign, saying comparing a "purely democratic and open process to one of the darkest days of apartheid" was "gravely senseless".

In a statement late last night, Motshekga's office said people should not "campaign in a manner that trivialises the deep pain and suffering experienced by the majority of our people" under apartheid.

The statement repeated previous statements made by the chief whip that the bill was in line with international standards and said there would still be further opportunities for discussion around it when it was sent to the NCOP.

"This government will never and has no intention to ban, torture or murder journalists," it read.

Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils yesterday said an attack on him by ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu was "patently very ill-considered, highly abusive and intemperate".

Mthembu accused Kasrils of wanting to rule the intelligence services "from the grave" after he criticised State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

"As someone who fought in the struggle . I am appalled. I want to raise my voice for the principles the ANC stood for and that is exactly what I've been doing, though it's akin to talking into a toy telephone," Kasrils said.

Concerns about the Info Bill are mounting against the backdrop of Mac Maharaj, Zuma's spin doctor, laying criminal charges on Saturday against two Mail & Guardian journalists for allegedly obtaining information illegally.

The newspaper featured a picture of Maharaj with the words: "Censored. We cannot bring you this story in full due to a threat of criminal prosecution."

Yesterday, Maharaj criticised M&G editor Nic Dawes, accusing him of playing "political games" by trying to garner support for his campaign against the bill.

In response, Dawes said he was "unembarrassed" about being an advocate for press freedom and Maharaj was wrong about him pushing a hidden agenda.

"If Maharaj believes we are reporting this to make some kind of elaborate performance around press freedom, he is a fantasist."

Dawes said Maharaj had brought the charges to "use state resources" to try to uncover his journalists' sources.

"Maharaj will answer any question except the question about him lying under oath to the Scorpions about the large sums of money that he received from a company that was awarded a tender under his department."

According to yesterday's Sunday Times, secret payments totalling 1.2-million French francs (about R3.2-million at the time) were deposited into the offshore bank accounts of Maharaj's wife, Zarina, shortly before the Department of Transport awarded French arms company Thales a R265-million tender. Maharaj was transport minister at the time.