The Protection of State Information Bill (POSIB) is back before the National Council of Provinces today, leading activists to ask ‘why the rush’? The committee had been scheduled to hold meetings over a seven day period, but now will only meet today before taking a vote 11 May.
Murray Hunter, national co-ordinator of the Right2Know campaign, has written to the chairperson of the ad hoc committee on the Protection of State Information Bill to request an extension.
“We note the announced changes to the schedule of meetings on the Protection of State Information Bill, allowing only two meetings to finalise the Bill in light of the volumes of concerns, comments and objections tabled during hearings,” Hunter wrote. “The committee is scheduled to meet once on Friday 4 May to consider amendments, allow the state law advisor a week to draft such amendments, and meet again on Friday 11 May to adopt the Bill and pass it forward to the House for a vote.”
In the previous schedule, meetings were set for 24th April, 25th April, 26th April, 2nd May, 8th May, 15th May and 16th May.
Hunter said that in light of the “wide-ranging issues raised during the hearings, even that schedule seemed completely inadequate”.
He asked what “circumstances have changes to motivate the Committee to attempt to deal with all the proposed amendments in all the submissions made, and consider the drafts proposed by the State Law Advisors, and vote on them, in just two days?”
Hunter said that this “sudden development, on the back of extraordinary public and civil society opposition to the Bill in its current form, undermines the committee’s pledge, through the chairperson’s public comments in recent months, that its work would not be rushed”.
In the meantime, South Africa’s Nobel winning author, Nadine Gordimer, has slammed the Zuma administration over the Bill. In a piece published in the New York Times, Gordimer said President Jacob Zuma had his own “manipulative tactics” to ensure that the bill gained legal acceptance – so he could seek changes to the constitution.
““I actively supported the ANC during the liberation struggle against apartheid; I continue to support the ideals on which the ANC was founded. I am among the South Africans who believe the bill must be rejected in its entirety,” she wrote.
“In the new South Africa that was reborn in the early 1990s, with its freedom hard-won from apartheid, we now have the imminent threat of updated versions of the suppression of freedom of expression that gagged us under apartheid.
“The right to know must continue to accompany the right to vote that black, white, and any other colour of our South African population could all experience for the first time in 1994.”