Johannesburg - The introduction of an “information ministry” will have a devastating effect on democracy, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said on Friday.
“If the African National Congress wins this election, President (Jacob) Zuma will reportedly set up a so-called 'Information Ministry' that will only tell the people the ANC’s good stories,” she said in a speech prepared for delivery in eNtokozweni, Mpumalanga.
The last time South Africa had a ministry of information, such as those existent in Zimbabwe, Russia, and China, was under the apartheid regime, she said.
“There can be no clearer sign that the ANC wants to take us off the road towards a mature democracy, and put us on the road to a one-party state.”
The introduction of a state organ of propaganda needed to be fought “with everything we have”, Mazibuko said.
The Mail & Guardian reported unnamed sources as saying that such a ministry could be established if Zuma were elected for another term as president.
Mazibuko warned that the ruling party aimed to protect Zuma from scandal, citing the dissolution of the parliamentary ad hoc committee which was set to consider Zuma's submissions on the public protector's report on security upgrades to his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.
Parliament carried the ANC's proposal to let the matter stand over for the next Parliament to consider after the May 7 elections. The committee said there was insufficient time to complete the work as set out in the terms of reference before the current parliamentary term ended.
Mazibuko said ANC MPs used their majority “shamelessly” to shut down the committee.
“If the ANC was serious about fighting corruption, if it wanted to show the people of our country that it acts in their best interest, then it would have continued the work of the Nkandla committee.
“No, the ANC again chose to protect President Zuma rather than protecting the people of South Africa.”
She claimed that the Protection of State Information Bill, dubbed the Secrecy Bill, was written with the intention of keeping ANC corruption secret.
If Zuma signed the bill into law, the information ministry would have a “devastating effect” on the country.
“The ANC does not like it when the people know the truth so now they want to take away our right to question authority - they want to take away our very freedom of speech.
“The DA will continue to fight for justice until President Zuma answers for his role in the Nkandla scandal. We will fight against corruption. We will fight against any propaganda ministry,” Mazibuko said.
According to the report, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj would likely be appointed minister of information, with international relations spokesman Clayson Monyela earmarked for director general.
Maharaj reportedly said the matter was “totally out of my knowledge”.