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An oral submission on the Protection of State Information Bill was stopped on Wednesday afternoon because it contained “political statements”.
Mark Weinberg, from the Alternative Information Development Centre, was interrupted when he mentioned “the rise of securocrats” and “the tendency towards greater conservative authoritarianism” in his presentation.
Raseriti Tau, the chairman of the ad hoc committee on the bill, told him: “Now, you are giving me problems now. I know that I am going to be accused of having denied you an opportunity to speak. We can't continue with this.”
He added: “There are serious political statements now that you are making now. You are making reference to the Polokwane conference and all those sorts of things.
“Can we stop this presentation. We are not going to allow you to continue with this presentation.”
Weinberg had said that the tendency towards greater conservative authoritarianism in South Africa had to be understood in terms in the context of the battle between various factions and groups fighting for influence in the ruling party and the state.
“We also see the rise of securocrats,” he said.
“This so called... alliance of the wounded cobbled together pre-Polokwane is weakening and its fissures rupturing...”
Tau then stopped Weinberg from continuing.
“It would have been good if you were a lobby group and there is someone who was seeking funding for a protest,” Tau said.
In a statement later in the day, Tau said the committee was disappointment by the AIDC's submission.
“The AIDC's oral presentation focused more on political ideologies and political landscape of South Africa instead of issues related to the Bill.”
He said all organisations and institutions that appeared before the committee so far had been specific to areas of the Bill which they wish the committee to focus on.
The AIDC was shortlisted with other 17 organisations from 263 written submissions to make oral submissions to the ad hoc committee dealing with the Protection of State Information Bill.
“The committee welcomes and appreciates all relevant oral presentations that have been made to the committee as they will assist committee members in their deliberations,” Tau said.
Weinberg, for his part, said what happened during the public hearing in Parliament was more evidence of what he described as an undemocratic culture gripping the government.
“We came to Parliament offering socio-economic and political context to deliberations on the Bill. We came in good faith that the committee would listen and make the necessary changes to the Secrecy Bill.”
He said after listening to defensive questions from MPs the whole day, the AIDC was left very concerned over the committee's capacity to amend the Bill.
“In the course of the debate, it became clear that MPs had not read the AIDC submission and were surprised by its contents,” Weinberg said. - Sapa