They claimed this was being done to mislead the public and
manufacture support for the contested draft law.
The Democratic Alliance said at a hearing in Port Elizabeth, one
of three that took place in the Eastern Cape on Thursday, that members of the
party had been denied a chance to speak.
DA MP Alf Lees said the microphone had been turned off when
speakers colloquially referred to the proposed legislation as the “secrecy
“Shutting out feedback that embarrasses the ANC is in stark
contrast to Mr [Raseriti] Tau’s calls for broad public participation,” he said,
referring to the chairman of the National Council of Provinces’ ad hoc committee
processing the bill.
“The ANC went to great lengths to manufacture public support for
the secrecy bill.”
Lees claimed the ruling party had bused supporters to a hearing
in Barkly East and “effectively turned the event into an ANC rally”.
“There was a clear attempt to project the image at that hearing
that the bill is broadly accepted by the public”.
Tau rejected the claim.
“Anybody who says I tried to shut the DA down is lying because
the majority of people at the hearing were from the DA, down to wearing DA
The Right2Know campaign complained that the ANC misrepresented
the bill at the first two public hearings on the bill held in the Western Cape
earlier in the week.
“It is deceptive because the way the bill is introduced contains
glaring omissions on its substance,” said Murray Hunter, the national
co-ordinator of the campaign.
“People were not given a chance to read and apply their mind to
something they are asked to sign off on. The way in which it is being done is
not conducive to debate.”
Ruling party MPs presenting the bill skimmed over a contentious
clause on espionage, but stressed those seeking to safeguard personal
information in state hands, Hunter said.
Not enough copies
He said there were barely a handful of copies of the bill
available at the first public meeting on the bill in Thembalethu outside George,
and no sign of a promised two-page synopsis.
Hunter conceded that those who attended hearings should inform
themselves about the bill, but said many of the 300 people present at the
Thembalethu hearing told him “they were called there and did not know what it
At the same time, he said, NCOP chief whip Nosipho Ntwanambi
charged that speakers representing the Right2Know campaign were paid to attend
The NCOP committee said in a statement it was satisfied with the
meeting in Thembalethu and a second one held in Gugulethu on Tuesday.
It conceded the bill “elicited mixed reactions” from
participants, and that Tau had acknowledged there had not been enough copies of
“We relied on Parliament’s communications service and there was a
Hearings in every province
The ad hoc committee plans to hold at least two public hearings
in every province, ending with the Northern Cape on March 1. This would be
followed by a further hearing at Parliament a fortnight later.
On Thursday, a third meeting in the Eastern Cape was held in
The ANC drove the bill through the National Assembly in November
despite widespread concern that it would inhibit investigative media reporting
and whistle-blowing on corruption.
It criminalises possession and publication of classified
information and introduces prison sentences of up to five years for the latter.
If the information relates to the intelligence services, the maximum jail term
goes up to 15 years.
Media houses, civil rights groups and the Congress of SA Trade
Unions have vowed to challenge the bill in the Constitutional Court if it is
adopted without incisive amendments.