Secrecy Bill not signed…yet

President Jacob Zuma has not signed the Protection of State Information Bill into law, contrary to various reports on Thursday claiming that he had.

Various media outlets on Thursday (12 December) picked up tweets from media and information lawyer at Webber Wentzel, Dario Milo, which stated that the so-called :secrecy bill” had been signed by the president.

Dario Milo Tweet
Dario Milo Tweet

According to Milo, the source of information was an email from parliament sent to the law firm’s librarian, and others, with the attached Act – but subsequent tweets from the lawyer clarified that the Act has not yet been gazetted and may also not have been signed by Zuma.

Shortly after the news broke, South Africans took to Twitter to express their disapproval on the matter.

Presidency spokesman, Mac Maharaj told MyBroadband and BusinessTech that he was looking into the matter, but did not have any confirmed information.

EWN reported soon after that parliamentary spokesperson, Luzuko Jacobs confirmed that the Bill had not been signed into law.

According to Jacobs, parliament distributed something called an “act form”, in English and isiXhosa, to be sent to the President for his consideration.

Parliamentary document
Parliamentary document

Fight over the Secrecy Bill

The Protection of State Information Bill – known as the “Secrecy Bill” – has undergone a number of amendments since its first release two years.

In September, president Jacob Zuma referred the controversial bill back to the National Assembly in September.

In October, The National Assembly referred the Protection of State Information Bill back to the ad hoc committee that drafted and recently reviewed because it had failed to observe procedural rules.

It was then passed by the National Assembly, in November.

The Secrecy Bill is highly controversial as it aims to regulate the classification, protection and dissemination of state information, weighing state interests up against transparency and freedom of expression.

It would replace the Protection of Information Act, 1982, which currently regulates these issues.

Critics of the bill argue that it undermines the right to access information and the rights of whistleblowers and journalists.

President Zuma’s popularity has come under the spotlight in recent days, after he was openly booed at a memorial for former president, Nelson Mandela, at the FNB Stadium in Soweto.

On Wednesday night (11 December), President Thabo Mbeki openly suggested that South Africa needed better leadership.

“Exactly because we are dealing with this more complex struggle, we need to raise the level of the quality of leadership,” Mbeki reportedly told a memorial service for Mandela at the Calvary Church, in Midrand.

“To accelerate this progress that we need, we’ll come back to this matter about the quality of leadership,” Mbeki said.

Since Mandela’s death, President Jacob Zuma has lived in an uncomfortable spotlight. He was loudly booed by sections of the crowd at the memorial service in Soweto as international statesmen and millions of viewers watched.

Mbeki, on the other hand, was cheered, as was South Africa’s last white president FW de Klerk, who freed Mandela from jail and unbanned the ANC.

(Reporting with Sapa)

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Secrecy bill goes back to committee

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Secrecy Bill not signed…yet