About 20 people pitched up outside Parliament's main gates on Friday in an “expression of support” for the Protection of State Information Bill.
What the gathering of local ANC, SA Communist Party, and the SA National Civics Organisation members lacked in numbers, however, they made up for with some enthusiatic singing, dancing in a circle, and holding aloft small posters.
Messages included: “Reject the hysteria of the Right2Know campaign”; “Editors: Stick to editing, we'll get on with governing”; “Media is NOT the custodian of the public interest”; and, “ANC says protect our sovereignity and support the Protection of Information Bill”.
Speaking at the demonstration, SACP Cape Town treasurer Howard Smith said it was up to Parliament to make decisions on the bill, “not press editors”.
He said “hysteria” was being whipped up by the Right2Know (R2K) campaign against the so-called secrecy bill, and he suggested the organisation had secret backers.
“I see the hand of American imperialism behind the Right2Know campaign,” he said as members of his party, several wearing red T-shirts, danced alongside.
Across from the demonstration, high on the wall of St Mary's Cathedral, a three-metre high red sign proclaimed: “The truth will set you free. Say NO to the SECRECY BILL”.
In a statement earlier on Friday, the R2K in the Western Cape denied it had foreign backing.
“It is not a great leap to imagine that we will soon be accused of being 'agents of a foreign state' and find ourselves locked up in... prisons under the provisions of the secrecy bill or General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, both currently before Parliament,” it said.
The small demonstration moved at least one homeless man off the Plein Street bench he had been sleeping on.
Asked what he thought of the gathering, Conrad (no last name given), who was bundled up in several layers of clothing and wearing a red Father Christmas cap, said it was “very nice”, but did not know what it was about.
He then asked for some small change and said he was leaving to visit a local soup kitchen. – Sapa