25 November 2011

Fight against the secrecy bill continues

The movement to stop the secrecy bill has only heightened since its' recent passage by the National Assembly. Groups such as The Right to Know Campaign (R2K), the South African National Editors' Forum (SANEF) and the Democratic Alliance (DA), among others, have released their plans to continue fighting the legislation.

R2K, COSATU, SANEF, and others have all spoken out against the secrecy bill as individual associations previously. However, they recently formed a coalition that will seek to educate the public on the negative impacts of the bill, petition government to make amendments to the bill, and to cooperate in prospective litigation before the constitutional court.

A major underlying concern of the coalition is that ordinary citizens have not been made aware of how the bill impacts their right to know because so much of the public discussion has been dominated by the bill's effects on the media. The strategy will involve public education at the grassroots level, large scale awareness campaigns, the creation of a mass petition, a major summit in the New Year, and protests at the union buildings if the NCOP does not make the necessary amendments to the bill. If measures are not taken to address the collective considerations of the coalition, the three groups plan to present a united front against the bill before the constitutional court.

The DA also released its plan to fight the secrecy bill, which they argued "has no place in a free and democratic South Africa" during a press conference on Thursday, 25 November 2011. That plan involves attempting to meet with President Zuma to discuss the immediate and far-reaching consequences of the bill's passage into law. The DA will launch an e-mobilization campaign and to push for a series of amendments before the NCOP. The DA also plans to petition the president to send the bill back to the National Assembly if, and when, it comes across his desk based on its being unconstitutional.

If all other avenues to halt the bill have been exhausted, and the president signs the bill into law, the DA will lobby MPs from other political parties to support a petition to the constitutional court under s. 80 of the constitution. Finally, if the bill is passed in its current form, and the challenges are unsuccessful, the DA will resist its implementation in areas that it governs.