There is a lurking fear that some things are not meant "to be known," that some inquiries are too dangerous for South Africans to make. Without wanting to appear too superficial, the press and whistle blowers has played a constructive role in informing the public about which that could have easily been swept underneath the carpet by the fraternal ‘stomach pushing' comrades in commanding positions of power abusing public resources through inflated charges, colluding, embezzlement and senseless corruption.
As far as I know media has never made public any information that has thus far threatened the nation's interests. In fact, the contrary has been the case. This is the reason we are so concerned that the secrecy bill will become a threat to national interest itself. Clean government needs to protect no information against legitimate enquiries.
A failure to include a public interest defence clause is tantamount of affirming that the bill itself it is not about protecting the interests of South Africans. It will therefore not be too far-fetched to say that the bill will be used as instrument to remove freedoms of individual whistle blowers, the press, business and political opposition in favour of the powers that be.
If this is not a path to tyranny, it's a sure path to political suicide. Of what use will be the Protected Disclosures Act and Promotion of Access to Information Act if the State will dictate what information to give away and which to sweep under the secrecy rug? How will disclosures be possible if one can later be charged of disclosing classified information? Thus a public interest clause is necessary, in fact, why should state held information not be of public interest? Isn't a democratic state like ours govern on our behalf? Yet they should hide information from us? Democracy is not worth a crown under these circumstances.
It's obvious that ANC find itself under attack by ‘hostile' media. The disclosure of high level corruption and maladministration cases which have become a norm in the ruling party are dealing a heavy blow to the terribly factious party. This time around it looks like all ANC MPs were all instructed to all attend the session and vote for the Bill. That which is at stake here is the integrity of the movement not national interests. I challenge the State to point to any disclosure of information which has ever endangered the lives of South Africans.
South Africa continues to be diminished by structural racism, corruption, widening inequalities and unemployment amongst myriad of challenges upon which the ruling party should expend its energy. Instead of working tirelessly to show leadership on those challenges we are given a secrecy bill.
A movement/entity it is never attacked from without before it destroys itself from within. The national interests are not at stakes from spies but rather at the political bureaucrats who are supposed to serve the needy population but instead are doing worse than nothing.
Thomas Jefferson once said "Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press [and whistle blowers], and that cannot be limited without being lost".
Delivering speech in 1994 before ANC took over; our very own Nelson Mandela said "If the people of South Africa elect us to office, we firmly undertake that an ANC government will strive for an open society in which vigorous debate is encouraged through a free press and other media"
And in our simplistic conclusion, we still say NO to secrecy. No to Secret Governance!!
Asaph Chuene and Peter Mongezi are co-founders of the upcoming Establishment for Political Redress (EPR)
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