12 July 2013

The constitutionality of the Secrecy Bill is still a secret

The controversial Secrecy Bill (formally known as the Protection of State Information Bill) was passed by the National Assembly on 25 April 2013.

However, over two months later the Bill awaits the signature of President Zuma.

It is hoped by SAHA that the delay in signing the Bill into law is to allow legal advisers to review the constitutionality of the Bill - an issue that has been raised in many quarters - most vocally through the Right to Know Campaign (R2K), a collective action campaign comprising many activists and organisations, including SAHA - throughout the drafting of the Bill. The constitutional question is certainly one that President Zuma is well aware is very likely to be tested should he sign the Bill into law as it now stands.

Catherine Kennedy, Director of SAHA has said:

"The Bill as currently drafted still has the potential to be used as yet another barrier to the constitutional right of access to information. This, in an environment where there already exists pervasive cultures of secrecy, as is evidenced by recent controversies like Nkandlagate and the increasing use of apartheid-era National Key Points Act to block the free flow of information, not to mention those numerous instances over the years where the state has refused to grant PAIA applications unless and until there is a threat of litigation."

SAHA continues to stand with the R2K Campaign and others in calling on the President to send the Bill to Parliament for redrafting, or to send it directly to the Constitutional Court for review."