‘Write to Us on Bill, Too’
Four weeks into the public consultation process conducted by the National Council of Provinces’ ad hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill, it seems there is increased awareness and public education around the proposed legislation.
This emerged when members of the National Council of Provinces' committee members visited North West to hear the views of the citizens on the Bill. Five other provinces have already been visited in the ad hoc Committee’s roadshow on the Bill.
During the public hearings held at the Matlosana Auditorium Hall on Tuesday four citizens raised unrelated queries on service delivery but most of those present debated the Bill. Interest groups raised concerns that the Bill could put a veil of secrecy around corruption and irregularities by government officials. They called for the inclusion of a public interest defence clause.
“Many people have been raising the issue of the public interest clause as well as the views that the Bill would be seen to be covering corruption and maladministration,” said Ms Nosipho Ntwanambi, leader of the delegation. She urged the community to bring forward new issues to help the Committee when they would be deliberating on the Bill in Parliament from April.
A union member, Mr Kopano Kunupi, wanted to know how the Bill would help unions protect workers who exposed corruption or incompetence as per Section 16 of the Labour Law. The delegation replied that such workers would be protected by the Protected Disclosure Act.
Another citizen, Ms Riana de Wet, said: “The powers to classify information need to be restricted to departments that deal with issues of national security such as Defence and Security. I fail to see why the head of department of Arts and Culture or Sport for instance would need to classify info.”
The delegation confirmed that only the heads of State security services, oversight bodies and Chapter 9 institutions would have the powers to classify information.
Among the new submissions by those supporting the Bill was that the jail sentences for offenders should be increased beyond the current maximum of 25 years.
“Chapter 11, which deals with offences and penalties, should actually state that the sentences are not limited to 25 years. Taking into consideration the kind of damage the media may cause our country by revealing sensitive information, the sentences should be harsher,” said Mr Kagiso Dikgang.
Ms Ntwanambi said the Committee would take each submission into consideration when deliberating the Bill in Parliament. “We want to express our gratitude to the people of this district for coming in numbers and raising their views. We listened and took notes. Those who felt they haven’t said enough please write to us so that your views can be considered too,” she said.
by Elijah Moholola