Cape Town - There are too many things going wrong in the country for critics of the so-called Info Bill to be silenced, former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils told a group of protesters outside Parliament on Monday.
Kasrils joined a group of demonstrators from the lobby group Right to Know Campaign (R2K), who are camping outside the parliamentary gates to protest against the Protection of State Information Bill.
The measure is currently being finalised by a National Council of Provinces ad-hoc committee.
“If we've been associated with the ANC not to just pretend a loyalty and to grit our teeth and sit on our hands, but to actually have the right to say to the government of the ANC.... this applies to the (SA) Communist Party and the trade unions, that we are worried and we can see our people losing confidence in you,” he told protesters.
Kasrils' opposition to the bill drew strong criticism from the ruling party in 2011, when he was accused of trying to “rule from the grave”, and “failing to deal with the mess in the then department of intelligence, where he was a minister, which left the country vulnerable to machinations of foreign spies, information peddlers, and espionage activities”.
The former minister on Monday indicated such statements had not made him falter, and said he remained driven by his conscience.
He still believed the bill was a “dog's breakfast”.
“I want to commend Right to Know for creating this campaign against all sorts of insults, even to the extent of saying they are doing the work of foreign spies and agents, so bankrupt have some of the people been that have been pushing for this bill,” he said.
Kasrils wants a public interest defence included in the bill to protect those who leak wrongdoing by government.
“We are getting even more concerned because it (the bill) has tended to create the suspicion that perhaps the reason is not to protect the sovereignty and constitution of our country, but rather to hide many of the growing number of things that come to embarrass you because you have lost the way,” he said.
Kasrils said he had not given up on the ANC, and its alliance partners, but remained worried about where it was headed.
“We do see other voices outside of that alliance who talk strongly truth to power, and the ordinary people of our country, from all walks of life and all backgrounds, who stand up and say we voted you in - whoever you are - to serve the people, to help solve the problems of the people and not your own particular interests.”
The R2K campaign has set up a tent at the Catholic Cathedral opposite Parliament and will be holding lunchtime pickets every day this week. - Sapa