Cosatu ready to challenge info bill

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IOL pic mar9 vavi education Independent Newspapers (File image) Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Cosatu would be first in line to challenge the Protection of State Information Bill in the Constitutional Court it became law, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.

In its present form the legislation would put South Africa on its way back to becoming a police state, he told MPs in Cape Town.

Vavi said the much-changed version of the draft law passed by the National Assembly last year still raised the spectre of widespread classification of information to conceal corruption.

He said the scope of the bill was too wide, the penalties it imposed disproportionate and the potential impact on South Africa's democratic values devastating.

“It has the threat of entrenching a security state. We will roll back the clock to where we come from – a police state,” he told a third day of public hearings on the so-called “secrecy bill” at the National Council of Provinces.

Vavi said the bill was ripe for constitutional challenge on several counts.

Clause 4 (1) sought to usurp the Protection of Access to Information Act and clause 43 reversed the onus of proof on those accused of publishing classified information.

“We have said if these types of clauses go through then we will be left with no choice but to approach the Constitutional Court,” he said.

“We will be the first to arrive there. Our lawyers are standing very ready to do so.”

Veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos, appearing on behalf of the Legal Resources Centre, also argued that the bill violated the Constitution.

He urged MPs to refer the bill to the Constitutional Court.

If MPs passed it in its current form “there will be a very long queue of applicants to take the president, the minister of justice to court”, Bizos warned.

Vavi said he found succour in the fact that Nelson Mandela's former defence lawyer shared his views on the bill.

“It gives us comfort that you are in the same corner,” he said. – Sapa


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