Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer has launched a scathing attack on the Protection of State Information Bill, warning that it is a new threat to freedom in South Africa.
The acclaimed writer called for the bill to be “rejected in its entirety” in an article, South Africa: The New Threat to Freedom, on the New York Review of Books website.
It calls for an extension to give more time for lawmakers to consider changes to the bill, which is set to be finalised and passed on May 17 in the National Council of Provinces.
This follows almost two years of campaigning against elements of the so-called Secrecy Bill.
Describing the lack of freedom in South Africa under apartheid, Gordimer mentioned the many works, by international and local writers such as DH Lawrence, Ezekiel Mphahlele, and herself, which had been banned.
“In the new South Africa that was reborn in the early 1990s, with its freedom hard-won from apartheid, we now have the imminent threat of updated versions of the suppression of freedom of expression that gagged us under apartheid.
“The right to know must continue to accompany the right to vote that black, white, and any other colour of our South African population could all experience for the first time in 1994.”
Among her criticisms of the bill were:
Gordimer detailed the prison sentences which the bill called for – ranging from five years in jail or a fine for failing to report possession of classified information to 25 years for espionage.
She said that President Jacob Zuma had his own “manipulative tactics” to ensure that the bill gained legal acceptance – so he could seek changes to the constitution.
“This is the cliff-hanger in which, as I write, we South Africans are now opposing the Protection of State Information Bill and its ancillaries.”
Gordimer said that if the bill was passed into law, it was the intention of the DA, Cosatu, and the South African National Editors’ Forum to bring a case against it in the Constitutional Court.
“I actively supported the ANC during the liberation struggle against apartheid; I continue to support the ideals on which the ANC was founded. I am among the South Africans who believe the bill must be rejected in its entirety.”