Cape Twon 271010 Alan Storey satnds in front of paliment protesting agains the Secrecy Bill. Close to 500 people marched to Parliment as part of the Right To Know Campaign to stop the Secrecy Bill. picture : neil baynes

Booing and arguments with committee members over support for the Protection of State Information Bill marred the NCOP's public hearing on the bill in Mangaung on Tuesday.

A war of words erupted between African National Congress committee member Nosipho Ntwanambi and Free State Democratic Alliance leader Roy Jankielsohn after speakers in favour were cheered and those against were booed.

The public ignored repeated appeals by Ntwanambi, who chaired the meeting, not to boo, ululate, or cheer speakers.

She told them not to bring “political party concerns” into the public hearing on the bill.

Ntwanambi said speakers also had “no right” to raise concerns in the public hearing about the withholding of information on investigations in Free State municipalities.

This prompted Jankielsohn to tell Ntwanambi that the National Council of Provinces committee was not there to “debate or defend” the bill.

The two speakers then engaged in a war of words during which Jankielsohn was loudly booed and accused of being rude.

After calm was restored, Ntwanambi said the committee could not be quiet when “wrong allegations” had been made about the bill and she said “only the truth” would be allowed.

Earlier, a DA speaker wearing full party colours was booed by most in the hall.

ANC committee member Grace Boroto took issue with some of his comments, including his accusation that the committee had not read the document thoroughly enough.

To wild applause, Boroto said no one should tell the committee it had not read the bill, while he was the one who did not understand it.

The crowd reaction ended when there were fewer people who spoke out against the bill.

Many speakers gave their full support to the bill, which was described as a “beautiful document” by a Botshabelo businessman.

Most, such as Thembeni Nxangisa, openly declared their ANC membership before declaring their support for the bill.

Nxangisa also wanted the bill to protect identification documents and cellphone accounts.

Welkom resident Reverent Samuel Sekhosana said the bill was needed because he had never seen a country without a security bill.

He urged the committee to finalise the bill before state information ended up in the wrong hands and South Africa had its own “9/11 incident”.

Mangaung ANC Women’s League member Zinn Simpson said the government should hold workshops in communities to explain the bill, which she said many did not understand.

Like many other speakers, Simpson could not understand why the media was against the bill, because no mention was made of the media.

“This is no tool to hide things,” she said.

Another ANCWL member said she would support the bill even if it meant she had to go to jail.

The NCOP ad hoc committee dealing with the bill is holding public hearings in all nine provinces. - Sapa