Khulumani echoes the concerns of a wide sector of society in South Africa about the apparent steam-rolling of this Bill through Parliament today and agrees with concerned citizens that the Bill presents a threat to democracy and the citizen’s right to know.
For Khulumani, the implications of this Bill include that the disclosure and publication of the details of the crimes of the past in order to honour those who suffered to end apartheid, could paradoxically itself be rendered a crime by this Bill.
Khulumani members are victims and survivors of apartheid era gross human rights violations and abuses. Most of these gross human rights abuses and violations were carried out by members of the security forces.
A very limited number of these perpetrators were given amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Some of these perpetrators are now liable for prosecution. If the perpetrators’ actions are classified as “secret” by an official who is authorised to classify it this way, it would become an offence for Khulumani or a Khulumani member to possess this information. This would be a travesty of justice and would completely negate the preamble of our Constitution which states that we, the people of South Africa, will honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land.
Khulumani believes it would clearly be in the public interest to make information about crimes of the past freely available to those who suffered for justice and freedom – as well as the public at large. This is one of the many reasons why a public interest defence clause is needed in this Bill.
Several members of parliament are receiving “special pensions” in addition to their salaries because they were involved in the struggle to overcome apartheid. If the information about who is receiving special pensions is classified as “secret” as a consequence of this Bill being passed, information which is in the public interest information will be “blacked out” by this Bill.
For these reasons, in addition to legitimate reasons proposed by other concerned citizens and those who live in our country, Khulumani Support Group opposes the adoption of the Protection of State Information Bill as it stands.
Today has been declared a “Black Tuesday” given the apparent determination of the state to put this Bill to the vote today. Khulumani joins many others in calling on government to withdraw the Bill that substantially restricts the constitutional right of citizens to information that is protected under the Promotion of Access to Information Bill (PAIA).