Parliament’s vote of shame

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st p1mainblack602 (21063414) INLSA MUZZLED: Pretoria News staffers Ntando Makhubu and Yolande du Preez tape their mouths shut in protest at the secrecy bill. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane

GAYE DAVIS

THE FIGHT continues. That was the vow made by opponents of the Protection of State Information Bill yesterday after ANC MPs used their majority in the National Assembly to approve it, despite a concerted fight by opposition MPs who made up for their lack of numbers by exploiting the rule book in a bid to defeat the bill.

The tally was 229 votes in favour, while opposition MPs mustered only 107 votes against it because some MPs were absent, while some parties have vacant seats.

There were two abstentions – one of them by ANC MP Gloria Borman and the other by the United Democratic Movement’s Stanley Ntapane.

MPs took their seats as hundreds of protesters gathered at the gates of Parliament to register their protest, and pickets took place across the country.

Members of the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) – editors of the country’s major print and broadcast media – sat in the public gallery, dressed in black to mark what the National Press Club had dubbed Black Tuesday.

st p1secCAPEtown (21063416) A demonstrator protests against the passing of the Protection of Information Bill outside parliament in Cape Town. REUTERS

When the result of the vote was announced, they rose as one and left. Journalists cleared the Press Gallery at the same time, as ANC MPs applauded and shouted “Bye bye”.

Deft political footwork by the DA, in concert with the IFP, Cope, the ACDP and Freedom Front Plus, saw the ANC caught on the back foot by an initial bid to have the proceedings postponed, but the effect was only to delay the inevitable and see ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga told by Speaker Max Sisulu that he wasn’t allowed to make speeches when he stood to object.

Parties were allowed three minutes each to make declarations setting out their opposition to the bill.

Boos and howls from ANC MPs met DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko when she said it was “a dark day” for the country’s young democracy.

“If passed, this bill will unstitch the very fabric of our constitution. It will criminalise the freedoms that so many of our people fought for.

“What will you, the members on that side of the house, tell your grandchildren? I know you will tell them that you fought for freedom. But will you also tell them you helped to destroy it? Because they will pay the price for your actions today.

ST p1mainSOWsecrecy IN SOWETO: Protesters from the Right2Know Campaign outside the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto ahead of the secrecy bill vote. Picture: Jennifer Bruce INLSA

“Let this weigh heavy on your conscience as you cast your vote,” Mazibuko said.

Cope leader and former ANC national chairman and defence minister, Mosiuoa Lekota, said: “I shudder to think that the men and women who say money is being stolen will be locked up in the name of the ANC.

“I am ashamed… (we) will not vote for this legislation,” he said.

The ANC was creating “exactly the same situation” those who fought apartheid had confronted, when patriots were locked up and criminalised for saying what was wrong with the apartheid state, Lekota added.

The PAC’s Letlapa Mphahlele said: “You don’t have to be a foreign spy to oppose this legislation.” He warned it would limit freedoms and turn the country into a “banana republic”.

Calling on President Jacob Zuma not to sign the bill, the IFP’s Mario Ambrosini said Parliament was acting against the will of the people, who had said “in a clear voice” they did not want it. “What emerges out of this… is the arrogance of power.”

But Ambrosini missed the vote. Asked why his name was absent from the voting minutes, which lists the name of every MP, he told The Star he was “probably in the toilet”. After his ablutions, he had gone to do an interview with eNews. His vote would not have made much difference, he added.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the true motivation for the bill was not so much state security as the concerns of people high up in the ANC for what the media was reporting.

ANC MP Luwellyn Landers said most critics of the bill had not read it and wanted former apartheid ruler PW Botha’s 1982 act – which the bill is meant to replace – to remain on the statute books. Retorted IFP chief whip Koos van der Merwe: “The honourable member attacks PW Botha, but he was a deputy minister in his cabinet.”

The bill has some way still to go before it becomes law: it will now go to the National Council of Provinces, which has the power to hold a fresh round of public hearings, take submissions and make amendments – although it can also pass the bill as it stands.

Speaking on the steps of the National Assembly after the vote, Sanef chairman Mondli Makhanya said editors would work with unions and civil society to continue the fight against the bitterly contested bill.

DA leader Helen Zille told The Star: “This is not the end of the road. We will take the bill to the Constitutional Court. More than a third of MPs oppose the bill, which enables us to do so (approach the Constitutional Court) under section 80 of the constitution.”

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229 Corrupt Ministers....?, wrote

IOL Comments
07:40am on 24 November 2011
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There you have it. The number of corrupt Ministers under Zoomer. These ppl are millionares on the gravy train, and I would presume, with offshore bank accounts and of course, they want to hide their money gained by corrupt means. Nelson once said that the Secrecy Bill will never be passed as long as the ANC is in Government. He was right. Come the next elections, the ANC will definitely be OUT. But for NOW, the corrupt need this Bill to steal as much as they possibly can, for the limited time they have...!!!

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Lekgwakgwa Daniel Mohlatlole, wrote

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07:10am on 24 November 2011
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The leaders of ANC vote for yes for information bill is the people support corruption and want to kill democracy in South Africa, I hope all South African the will see this and vote agaist ANC 2014.

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The Archer, wrote

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04:35pm on 23 November 2011
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Jay Naidoo's warning to his party, the ANC, not to go ahead with the secrecy bill can be read at: http:dailymaverick.co.zaopinionista2011-11-22-the-secrecy-bill-welcome-back-magnus-malan-adriaan-vlok

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papi, wrote

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03:19pm on 23 November 2011
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this is not what th likes of OR Thambo, W Sisule G Mbeki, N Mandela and the other heros faught for. are we going backwards now?

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The Archer, wrote

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11:57am on 23 November 2011
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Jay Naidoo spoke out so eloquently (and angrily) against this iniquitous secrecy bill on SAfm yesterday at about midday. I haven't seen his views reported anywhere today and can't understand why such a powerful statement by an ANC member isn't getting the coverage it deserves. Does anyone know where one can get a tran of his comments?

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:15am on 23 November 2011
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Corruption is set to triple. MPs must be laughing all the way to the bank

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:11am on 23 November 2011
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Well, if our government think they can silence the people good luck to them. We all understand the past and what the previous goverment tried to achieve when they did the same thing. Unfortunately "in every democracy, the people get the government they deserve" (quote Alexis de Tocqueville 1805 - 1859)so we are partly to blame for allowing our public servants to silence us. On the upside i dont think our new upcoming voters will be silenced and freedom of speech will reign as we live in the information age and with social media, smart phones, internet etc - the news will get out. Heads up up SA - lets remind the politicians they are here to serve us, the people of South Africa, - not the other way around!

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JCS, wrote

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10:11am on 23 November 2011
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Is it just possibele for the media to publish this draconical legislation in full detail so that each and everyone can read it in full detail. I thing the international world and S.A. citizens outside our borders are also interested in what it is all about. Not all of us has excess to the government gassette.

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The Archer, wrote

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10:08am on 23 November 2011
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Could the editor get a tran of Jay Naidoo's radio interview yesterday. His angry, yet eloquent comment on the ANC's betrayal of democratic principles hasn't been given the coverage it deserves. The question is now - will Naidoo have the courage to renounce his ANC membership - which can now only be worn as a badge of shame?

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