Cape Town-130425-The consideration of Protection of Sate Information Bill and report of Ad Hoc Committee on Protection of State Information Bill in National Assembly today-Photographer-Tracey Adams
Cape Town-130425-The consideration of Protection of Sate Information Bill and report of Ad Hoc Committee on Protection of State Information Bill in National Assembly today-Photographer-Tracey Adams
A man shouts his objections during a protest against the Protection of State Information Bill outside Parliament. File photo: AP
A man shouts his objections during a protest against the Protection of State Information Bill outside Parliament. File photo: AP

Pretoria - The ANC has rejected as an “act of desperation and posturing” a call by the DA to have another vote on the recently passed Protection of State Information Bill, also known as the Secrecy Bill.

The official opposition made its request after ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga blamed a “technical glitch” for being recorded as having voted against the controversial legislation.

Parliament passed the bill last week by 190 votes against 74 - with one abstention and 60 MPs absent.

Moloto Mothapo, spokesman for the ANC parliamentary caucus, on Sunday dismissed the DA’s request outright, saying the official opposition sought to use the glitch to cast aspersions on the entire voting process for political reasons.

“The DA seeks to use the technical glitch around ANC Chief Whip Dr Motshekga's vote, which the system erroneously captured as ‘No’ even though he pressed otherwise, to suggest that the entire system is dysfunctional and all votes were incorrectly captured.

“This is an act of desperation and posturing. Seemingly the DA is clutching at straws and the party is resorting to some futile filibustering expedition with a hope to frustrate a democratic decision of the National Assembly,” said Mothapo.

Before ANC MPs could even finish celebrating their overwhelming victory, opposition MPs quickly pointed out the irony that Motshekga - who once accused critics of the bill of “stupid liberal snobbery” - had in fact voted against the legislation he had fought so hard for.

This revelation threatened to embarrass not only Motshekga but the ANC.

The ANC chief whip later issued a statement, through Mothapo, saying owing to a technical problem with the voting machines, “the system erroneously recorded” him as having voted against it.

The bill, which awaits President Jacob Zuma’s signature before being passed into a law, has already sparked a war of words between the ANC and the DA.

DA chief whip Watty Watson has written to National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu asking him to schedule another vote.

“According to the ANC Chief Whip, Mathole Motshekga, the voting system contained technical faults, which apparently resulted in his vote being recorded incorrectly,” said Watson. “If this is indeed the case, then there is the potential that other votes could have been recorded incorrectly.

“On a bill as controversial as this, and which has a high likelihood of ending up in the Constitutional Court, it is essential that Parliament is not embarrassed for its inability to do its job correctly,” said Watson.

He was “confident” that Motshekga would support the request and seize the opportunity to vote again, Watson said.

“For his vote to be changed behind closed doors will create unnecessary suspicion to the parliamentary process which must at all times be open.

“The Speaker must ensure that the integrity of Parliament is maintained. A re-vote is the only transparent way to do this,” said Watson.

Mothapo denied Watson’s assertions, accusing the DA of a fishing expedition following an electoral defeat in the National Assembly.

Mothapo said minor technical glitches do happen sometimes, “despite Parliament’s best intention to ensure 100 percent trouble-free voting sessions”.

“Despite DA parliamentary leaders claiming the entire opposition is united on this bill, the voting statistics reflects that over 60 opposition MPs failed to pitch for this crucial vote. This hardly augurs well for a united opposition the DA usually propagates,” said Mothapo.

Opponents of the bill have argued that it would undermine transparency and accountability in a country where senior government officials and politicians are often implicated in corruption and abuse of taxpayers’ money. They have called on Zuma to at least send it to the Constitutional Court for review before he finalises it. Pressure group, the Right2Know, has threatened to take the government to the Constitutional Court to push for the inclusion of certain clauses.

Pretoria News