Info Bill resistance: Cosatu treads carefully

It appears that Cosatu has toned down its opposition to the Protection of State Information Bill. Whereas the labour federation spoke out strongly against the Bill last year, it now insists that it has taken a softer line to “create space” for continuing discussions about it with the ANC.

The controversial law, known as the secrecy Bill, seeks to regulate the classification of state information and calls for hefty penalties, including jail sentences, for those in possession of classified documents. Journalists and other corruption whistle-blowers will not be able to claim a public-interest defence if they place classified information in the public domain.

It is speculated that the federation is deeply divided on the Bill and wants to tread carefully in opposing it. Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini denied that the federation was backing down in its opposition of the Bill, saying it was discussing “a way forward” with an ANC study group.

“If the Bill does not address the issue of public interest, we are prepared to go to the Constitutional Court,” Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday. “The ANC is arguing that the issue of public interest is taken care of in other laws, but we are not agreeing with them. We want the information Bill to have the public-interest clause.”

In the past few weeks some of the union federation’s members have claimed that there is “a feeling in Cosatu that the Bill is a sensitive area and needs to be handled carefully in the public arena to ensure that everyone in Cosatu is brought with and to ensure divisions do not arise in the year of Mangaung”. “So there are lots of sensitivities to manage.”


According to the source, Cosatu affiliates such as the National Union of Mineworkers, National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union and a section of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) were being lobbied by the South African Communist Party (SACP) to support the Bill. The unions for metalworkers, municipal workers and a different section of Sadtu remained strongly opposed to the Bill.

Another Cosatu insider said the federation would not backtrack on its stance on the Bill but was focusing its concerns on “areas that are dangerous for Cosatu and workers”.
“Cosatu and its unions don’t have the same issues as the media. For us, it’s about who determines [what is in the] public interest and what happens to workers who blow the whistle on corruption?”

The source said that there was “a lot of wheeling and dealing” behind the scenes, spearheaded mainly by the SACP, to convince Cosatu affiliates to support the Bill.

Cosatu’s national spokesperson, Patrick Craven, said it was still consulting on the Bill. “We will definitely embark on mass action and also legal action if the Bill is passed as is.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Fight inequality the South African way

Civil society helped topple apartheid, but the struggle is not over. The gap between rich and poor has widened and corruption and poor governance is evident

Public wage bill is impeding SA’s growth prospects — Busa

Business Unity South Africa is eager to talk to its social partners at Nedlac about how the spiralling public-sector wage bill can be tamed. And the organisation says these talks need to happen soon

State’s wage freeze sparks apoplexy

Public sector unions have cried foul over the government’s plan to freeze wages for three years and have vowed to fight back.

Too broke for Mboweni to budget

The scramble to find cash for an SAA bailout, Covid-19 grants and civil servants’ demands force postponement of mini-budget

Teacher union to join Cosatu strike over ‘uncaring employer’

Sadtu has accused the state of being an “uncaring employer” for failing to pay salary increases due two years ago

October 7 strike: ‘Lukewarm’ action amid Covid-19 crisis?

After months of little action, the planned nationwide stayaway may not be an impressive show of force by the trade union movement
Advertising

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

More top stories

ATM withdrawal halts no-confidence vote against the president

The party wants the court to rule on the secret ballot issue first, with the case set to be heard in early February

Ruling deals crushing blow to zero-hours contracts

Ferrero factory workers have won the first battle in what might become one of South Africa’s next wars on casual and precarious work

Eusebius McKaiser: Mpofu, Gordhan caught in the crosshairs

The lawyer failed to make his Indian racist argument and the politician refused to admit he had no direct evidence

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…