CAPE TOWN — The controversial Protection of State Information Bill received a hefty Cape “klap” during public submissions in Gugulethu yesterday, which some 500 people attended.
Even though the ANC contrived to hold the submissions in the most pro-ANC part of Cape Town this did not help them, with 22 of the first 30 speakers attacking the bill.
Only four speakers were in favour of the legislation, and four complained about service delivery without any reference to the bill.
“I’m no longer a child. What are these secrets I have to be protected against? What am I not allowed to know?” asked an agitated 79-year-old ANC-supporting Langa woman.
“I want to know what the government is doing,” said another participant, who then quoted former President Nelson Mandela about the need for a free media to keep politicians in check.
“We don’t trust you. You lie to us. We keep hearing we’re free, but what does that mean?” came another frank contribution.
ANC MP Raseriti Tau, who chaired the session, painted a rosy picture of the legislation, stating that it was mainly about the protection of birth certificates, while failing to say anything about the controversial aspects of the bill.
The audience consequently castigated him for being biased.
The way public submissions are being handled was also criticised. “We oppose legislation, then you decide the opposite and then you say we were consulted,” came the accusation.
Former Western Cape ANC leader Mcebisi Skwatsha, one of the four speakers in favour of the secrecy bill, tried doing the same, arguing that those speaking against the bill are uninformed.
Another ANC member claimed that anyone who is against the proposed legislation is against the protection of South Africa.
But opposition to the bill was strong.
“What damage is information able to cause to our community?” was one of the questions.
“Against what information do we have to be protected?” another person wanted to know, while a third pointed out that this is the same ANC majority that killed the anti-corruption Scorpions unit.
Speaker after speaker said straight out that the ANC wants the law only so that it can get away with corruption and mismanagement.
“How will we know where we are on the housing waiting list if you declare that information classified?” people asked.
“This law is dangerous,” warned a woman.
“How will we know what they’re hiding? What if deaths in detention are again declared confidential? The previous government also had such laws and every time we are worse off.”
Public submissions also took place in George yesterday.
Tomorrow it’s the Eastern Cape’s turn, with submissions in Port Elizabeth and Mthatha.