Residents Call for Balance
Balance must be struck between the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and the Protection of State Information Bill if the proposed legislation is to become law.
This was the common call made by residents of the Waterberg District Municipality when the National Council of Provinces’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill held public hearings at Van Rensburg Hall in Mokopane today.
Apart from the call for the inclusion of the public interest defence clause and the concerns that the Bill would be used to cover up corruption, residents of Mokopane deliberated on how the Bill would be implemented in relation to the PAIA.
“We need to find a way of aligning PAIA with the new Bill so that we can remove grey areas,” said Mr Dan Sebabi, a prominent leader of a workers’ union in the province. Another local, Ms Christina Monama said: “It is going to be difficult to find balance between protecting state information and giving citizens their right to access information,” she said.
Leader of the group 2 (the 15-member Committee was split into three groups for Limpopo public hearings), Ms Nosipho Ntwanambi explained: “If you read the PAIA and the Bill together, it becomes clear that they work together. The one will not infringe on the other.”
Ms Ntwanambi also said that no government would want to cover up corruption, adding that there were legal procedures to be followed when citizens were aware or suspicious of such acts by officials.
Residents raised contrasting views on the review period of the classified information, which is currently at 10 years. Mr Clement Chilenge said: “The review must be done after 20 years when we would be certain that that state information has been protected for long enough. Every house has its own secrets.”
But another resident, who did not identify himself, said the review must be carried out after five years “because information becomes stale”. For Mr Lawrence Aswegen, part of the concerns was over the operational implications of the Bill.
“The Bill will put a huge administrative responsibility on the government. My impression is that this is a highly complicated piece of legislation which is going to cost millions to instill and uphold,” he said.
But Mr Lucky Manyashe said national security was “a very serious matter” and “it is paramount to ensure that at all costs and against all odds any piece of information on our security is kept confidential”.
by Elijah Moholola