Civil-rights organisation, AfriForum, has submitted further legal opinion on South Africa’s proposed Protection of State Information Bill to President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday.
According to AfriForum CEO, Ernst Roets, the rights organisation has various concerns with the act and have thus submitted a legal view to the president to be considered. The bill, which Roets refers to as the, “Secrecy Bill”, is on the president’s desk currently and is waiting to be signed by President Zuma himself, according to the AfriForum CEO, but he states that there are still outstanding matters which are essential and must be considered before the bill can move forward legally. “The legal opinion points out that various objections to the bill raised by AfriForum in the past have been taken into account, but several flaws still remain,” Roets said in a statement made on Tuesday.
One of the group’s main concerns were that red tape would lead to a slowing down of critical processes leading to a prolonged decision-making process. Ultimately, this would result in the public being left in the dark unnecessarily. Compounding this concern is the fact that no list of classified information currently exists, potentially leading to a profoundly expanded list of what can and cannot be made public knowledge. “Timeframes should be set for the finalisation of classification, including the ratification by the Revisions council,” Roet said.
Afriforum stakes the claim that the bill (as currently proposed) is too vague and needs adjustment. The group does not, however, disagree with the idea of a protection of state information act, in theory. “AfriForum believes that publication of information classified as secret by the state should be allowed, should be allowed, should the suspicion arise that the classification thereof, was irregular. The bill requires more than suspicion. The bill is vague in this regard,” he claims on behalf of the group.
AfriForum also claims that the Protection of State Information Bill uses a definition which is too broad to define negligence. The group stated that it strays from the practiced and generally accepted definition, which has been used for many years in both the courts and in common law practice. AfriForum has said that the act could potentially be discriminatory of those accused of violating the bill, consequentially.
AfriForum is a Non-Governmental Organisation, established in 2006 and registered as a non-profit company, with their mission statement claiming that they aim to allegedly protect the rights of minorities in South Africa, with a specific focus on the protection of the rights of the South African Afrikaner population. They have previously been involved in protesting the presence of Robert Mugabe’s presence at the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma and opposing the delivery of Allouette III Air Force helicopters being delivered to the Zimbabwean military.