/ 7 June 2011

Ackerman: Info Bill bad for SA, bad for business

Pick n Pay’s chairperson on Tuesday expressed his opposition to the Protection of Information Bill, saying it was in business’ interest to express itself much more vociferously in opposition to the Protection of Information Bill.

Read the full statement

Gareth Ackerman said the Bill was being pushed through Parliament with a “haste and zeal” that suggested the government was determined to retreat into a “self-protective environment of secrecy and concealment”.

“Contrary to what many in government seem to think, a free and inquisitive press (be it printed or electronic) is often a stronger guarantor of transparency than any purported checks and balances that may be built into the Protection of Information Bill,” he wrote.

Ackerman said consumers had a right of access to information under the control of public authorities in order that they could make informed decisions. He said Pick n Pay had learned the modern citizen demanded the maximum amount of disclosure about the safety, origin and contents of what they sold.

“Every businessman knows the truth of this and should therefore be profoundly alive to any threat to the free availability of information held by the state or any of its agencies.”

Ackerman said it was time for business in South Africa to speak out against the Bill, because “this is one genie that cannot be put back into the bottle”.

‘Direct infringement’
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) last week said it was deeply perturbed by the brazen nature in which the special committee was attempting to push the Bill through Parliament.

“The serious concern regarding this legislation as it presently stands is the ambiguity and broadness of interpretation,” deputy general secretary Krister Janse van Rensburg said in a statement.

“We do not believe that any person or organisation will challenge the need to replace the Protection of Information Act drawn up in 1982. However, this new legislation is a direct infringement on South Africans’ right to information.

“In a democratic country, citizens must have the right to be informed on all matters of public interest that directly affect them and the country they live in,” Janse van Rensburg said.

She said the Bill could easily lend itself to bureaucratic abuse in the need to cover up injustice, corruption and mismanagement.

“Furthermore, whistle-blowers can be directly prosecuted should the information they have be deemed of a classified nature.

The Right2Know campaign has urged South Africans to speak out against the Bill and said it had mounted a petition against it