President Zuma must Scrap the Secrecy Bill this Sunday: International Right to Know Day
On International Right to Know Day, this Sunday 28 September, the Secrecy Bill will have been sitting on President Zuma’s desk for 316 days. The Right2Know Campaign calls on the President to mark International Right to Know Day by refusing to sign the Bill and to request that Parliament revokes the apartheid-era 1982 Protection of Information Act and draft classification legislation that is aligned to our democratic Constitution.
Every day that President Zuma refuses to scrap the Secrecy Bill is another day that government uses the Apartheid Act to classify government information as secret.
The Secrecy Bill, if signed, will lead to a culture where important information is routinely classified as secret. The Bill gives powers of the Minister of State Security to give classification powers to other state bodies (and junior officials) without adequate public consultation. If Zuma signs the Bill the culture of secrecy will spread like a cancer from the Intelligence Agencies to other parts of government. Courageous whistleblowers, activists and journalists who release vital information to the public may not be covered by the limited public interest defense and could face up to 25 years in jail.
We call on all freedom loving South Africans to mark International Right to Know Day on Sunday by SMSing or emailing the Presidential Spokesperson Mac Maharaj on 079 879 3203 or email@example.com to call on the President to scrap the Secrecy Bill.
President Zuma to lead the international Open Government Partnership
On Heritage Day, last Wednesday, President Zuma assumed the role of co-chair of the Open Government Partnership at an event that took place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The 65 counties that signed the Open Government Declaration all claim that government and civil society are working together to “develop and implement domestic reformers committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens”.
However the recently released Right2Know research report on the Secret State of the Nation finds that South Africa is drifting towards a more closed, secretive, and authoritarian future. The report finds that across government, civil society is struggling to get access to information needed to hold local power to account. Surveys show requests for information via the Promotion of Access to Information Act are mostly failing. R2K’s Secret SONA finds that last year only one in six information requests (16%) resulted in a full release of information. This is an all-time low.
The National Key Points Act is increasingly used to block protest and access to information at key buildings around the county. The number of secret National Key Points shoot up to 197 across the country – a 67% increase in the last seven years.
The ministers of Police, State Security and Defense (the ‘security cluster’) are acting like political bodyguards for President Zuma and his allies. We see the hand of the Securocrats in the spike in police violence against protesters and growing signs of the criminalisation of protest.
The Securocrats act in the name of “national security”. When does our ‘national’ security quickly become the security of the government itself, or the security of a small elite that has economic or political power?
President Zuma must explain the contradiction between his stated commitment to Open Government at the United Nations and his apparent support of the Securocrats and state secrecy at home.
From Arms Deal to Nuclear Deal: No transparency, No justice.
Last week news broke that the South African government had agreed to a deal with Russia to purchase a fleet of nuclear power stations. The $50-billion Deal is estimated to cost the country twenty times the Arms Deal, and this price is bound to go up once contracting is completed as the nuclear industry is notorious for cost escalation and long delays.
The Nuclear Deal – conducted in secret without any public consultation or Parliamentary oversight – commits us to a dangerous technology and has all the hallmarks of the corrupt Arms Deal: The risk of massive corruption prone foreign tenders that have the potential of indebting us to foreign companies and rob the country of funds for service delivery and job creation.
After wide outcry the government has said that there will be a procurement process before the deal is finalised. The Right2Know Campaign calls for a full and transparent national dialogue on meeting South Africa’s energy needs of the future. If the State is committed to Open Government they must provide a clear roadmap for this dialogue including timelines, milestones, and the role of various oversight bodies including Parliament. Government must commit to full transparency and access to information throughout this process.
Our democracy cannot afford another Arms Deal where skewed national priorities and corruption have placed a dark cloud over consecutive administrations.
We are still trying to uncover the extent of damage done by the Arms Deal. The Seriti Commission has proven incapable or unwilling to uncover the truth. Key witnesses have not been called. Critical documents have not been allowed into evidence. The Commission is widely viewed as a white wash and Right2Know calls on President Zuma to disband the Commission and allow criminal investigations and prosecutions to take their course.
Celebrating our Whistle Blowers
The R2K send our condolences to the family of Xola Banisi, the unionist and whistleblower who alleged corruption in Bloemfontein Water and was assassinated in Bloemfontein’s Hillside Township on Friday 12 September. When government is closed we rely on the conscience of people like Xola Banisi to expose the truth. R2K honors Banisi as a hero of the right to know.
The Right2Know will celebrate International Right to Know Day by hosting screenings of the film “Crumbs: Toppling the Bread Cartel” a new South African documentary that tells the story of Imraahn Mukaddam, the whistle blower who exposed corporate bread price fixing. Crumbs is the poignant story of the impact of secrecy on ordinary people and the personal cost of blowing the whistle on corporate greed. It highlights corporate secrecy and the critical role of whistleblowers in fighting inequality.
Details of planned film screenings are as follow:
- Western Cape, 27 September 2014@ 10h30: Chatsworth Community Hall, Malmesbury;
- Free State, 27 September 2014 @ 14h30: Reamohetse High School, Botshabelo;
- Gauteng, 28 September 2014 @ 11h00: 6th floor, Aspern House, 54 De Korte St, Braamfontein, Johannesburg;
- KZN, 1 October 2014 @ 11h00: CCS Seminar Room, UKZN, Glenwood, Durban;
- Eastern Cape, 7 October 2014 @ 17h30: Venue to be confirmed, Grahamstown;
- Free State, 10 October 2014 @ 11h00: Mapenyadira Community Hall, Ficksbuerg.
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R2K Gauteng: Dale McKinley (072 429 4086)
R2K Western Cape: Ghalib Galant (084 959 1912)
R2K KZN: Nomvula Sikakane (073 537 1777)
R2K National: Mark Weinberg (084 993 0591)
BACKGROUND/NOTE TO EDITORS:
- Read the Right2Know Secret State of the Nation report.
- Read the OGP Open Government Declaration here.
- Visit the R2K information portal on the Arms Deal here.
- Watch the trailer of “Crumbs: Toppling the Bread Cartel” here