Politicians put in the spotlight during info Bill hearings

Politicians were roasted in Gugulethu in Cape Town on Tuesday at public hearings on the draft Protection of State Information Bill.

Lungiswa Somlota said a lack of knowledge among people about the proposed law had revealed a gap between people and their elected officials.

“We don’t know this Bill,” she told MPs on the National Council of Province’s (NCOP) ad hoc committee that is holding public hearings into the draft law.

“The gap between us and our elected representatives is very wide. The connection is not there,” she said.

Tuesday marked the start of countrywide public hearings into the Bill. The event at the Gugulethu Sport Complex was attended by about 300 people.

Somlota, reading from notes written in a black diary, said the Bill was not an ordinary one because it had a “deep” impact on people.

Nothing to hide
“It has very crucial elements. We should never take our access to information for granted. We are being betrayed by those supposed to lead and feed our tummies.”

At one point, committee chairperson Raseriti Tau had to ask speakers to refrain from talking about service delivery issues.

“Please don’t talk about service delivery, please.”

Matilda Groepe shouted into a roving microphone that if politicians had nothing to hide, there would not have been a need for a secrecy Bill. She asked what would happen if someone were ever a victim of police brutality.

“They will say it is none of your business, there is protection of state information. I don’t feel honoured to have MPs here. They should engage with us at grass roots before passing laws like this.”

Outside the complex, Stanley Nzwane, a trolley pusher and cleaner in his 50s, shook his head when asked about the Bill.

Not informed
“Politicians, they are all without God,” he said.

“All of them. They don’t care what we say.”

The SABC reported a low turn-out at the hearings in Thembalethu, outside George in the Southern Cape. Locals in the area said they had not been informed about the process.

NCOP Chief Whip, Nosipho Ntwanambi, said the hearings were advertised extensively in the media.

The 15 member NCOP committee will be conducting the hearings in various provinces. — Sapa

The passing of the Protection of State Information Bill came as no surprise, raising the threat to media freedom. View our special report.

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