Public protector not 'interfering' with secrecy Bill

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Thursday labelled the ANC’s claims she is trying to interfere in the passage of the controversial Protection of State Information Bill into law as a “complete misunderstanding”.

“It could never be interference to merely alert the driver of a car that if they drive in a certain direction there are people you may end up driving over,” Madonsela said.

In November Madonsela handed over submissions made to her office to Parliament speaker Max Sisulu, which questioned the proposed legislation’s integrity—maintaining she “never commanded anyone to do anything”.

“Would it have been proper if I had just sat on those views? I am simply doing my job,” Madonsela said.

The ANC released a statement earlier in the day slamming Madonsela’s “questioning and threatening to investigate” Parliament’s passing of the Bill in November.

“If the media reports are anything to go by, the public protector’s action is at odds with the Constitution and strongly suggests that she has overextended her authority. She can’t question Parliament’s legislative decisions or meddle in Parliament’s law making processes,” it said.

The contentious secrecy Bill proposes harsh penalties for journalists and citizens found to be in possession of classified documents as well as harbouring state secrets.

Proposed consequences include prison sentences of up to 25 years, with no protection mechanism, such as a public interest clause, to challenge the proposed offences.

In its current form, the legislation will see ordinary citizens and journalists treated as foreign spies if found to be in possession of information deemed to be a state secret.

It is within the ambit of the Public Protector to investigate alleged improper in state affairs and resolve said disputed activities through mediation or negotiation.

According to Madonsela, Sisulu sent a “courteous” response upon receiving the submissions and suggested she take the concerns to the National Council of Provinces—where the Bill is currently being considered.

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend. Read more from Nickolaus Bauer

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