Parliamentary Question: David Maynier: Secrecy Bill

1967

Don’t trample on Nelson Mandela’s legacy by supporting the Secrecy Bill

I was one of the few people who were enormously privileged to sit in the public gallery and listen to former president Nelson Mandela deliver his first State of the Nation Address in this Parliament. In his address, Nelson Mandela outlined a vision that he hoped would inspire the future of South Africa.

Part of that vision was of a government whose very purpose was the “extension of the frontiers of freedom”. And yet here we are – just seventeen years later – rolling back the very frontiers of freedom that Nelson Mandela so hoped would inspire the future of South Africa.

I have no doubt that if Nelson Mandela were present here today he would have had the courage to join the opposition in speaking out against the “Secrecy Bill”. The fact is that the “Secrecy Bill” amounts to a full-scale legislative assault on the freedom of the press and other media in South Africa.

The “Secrecy Bill”:
* criminalizes the possession of classified documents, even if the contents of the documents reveal wrongdoing, and exposing the contents of the documents would be in the public interest.

The “Secrecy Bill also:
* criminalizes the disclosure of the contents of classified documents, even if the contents of the documents reveal wrongdoing, and exposing the contents of the documents would be in the public interest.

So, the question is not whether journalists will go to jail, but which journalist will go to jail first.

That is why the DA proposed a “public interest defence”. The DA said: it should not be a criminal offence to disclose classified information if the disclosure of the information was a “genuine and bona fide act in furtherance of the public interest”.

But the ANC said: “No”.

So, the DA proposed an alternative. The DA said that we should specify the exceptional circumstances when classified information can – and indeed should – be exposed in a constitutional democracy.

But the ANC said: “No”.

The DA said that journalists should not go to jail if they expose an unlawful act.

But the ANC said: “No”.

The DA said that journalists should not go to jail if they expose incompetence.

But the ANC said: “No”.

The DA said that journalists should not go to jail if they expose inefficiency.

But the ANC said: “No”.

The DA said that journalists should not go to jail if they expose administrative error.

But the ANC said: “No”.

The DA said that journalists should not go to jail if they expose information that may cause embarrassment.

But the ANC said: “No”.

And why did the ANC say “no”?

Because the ANC want to:
• cover up unlawful acts;
• cover up incompetence;
• cover up inefficiency;
• cover up administrative error;
• cover up information that may cause embarrassment.

That is why Nelson Mandela would have had the courage to join the opposition in speaking out against the “Secrecy Bill”.

Today, it is the DA who are working to expand the frontiers of freedom, and the ANC who are working to roll back the frontiers of freedom.

Today, it is the DA who stands with Nelson Mandela, and the ANC who stands against Nelson Mandela.

Today is a sad day indeed for constitutional democracy in South Africa.
16 November 2011

Media Enquiries:

David Maynier MP

Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans
071 534 6398

Piera Abbott

Senior Media Officer
076 130 5779

Note to editors: The following is an extract from a speech delivered by David Maynier MP during the second reading debate on the Protection of State Information Bill.



David Maynier MP is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. A former Mason Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Maynier has previously served in a number of capacities in the DA, including as Director of Research, Director of Fundraising and, most recently, as Deputy Chief Executive Officer.