Religious leaders in W Cape speak out on Secrecy Bill

WESTERN CAPE RELIGIOUS LEADERS’ FORUM MEDIA STATEMENT

Religious Leaders Speak Out On Secrecy Bill

The Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum (WCRLF), which represents a diverse range of faith communities in the Province, expresses its grave concern that MPs are intent on pushing through the proposed Secrecy Bill without changes in the next month.

We are deeply worried at reports that the Protection of Information Bill, better known as the Secrecy Bill, is to be rammed through in its current, flawed form. By drawing a veil of secrecy over thousands of routine government decisions which should be accessible to all, and imposing draconian penalties on whistleblowers, this Bill threatens not only free speech but service delivery.

It is our poorest communities which will not be able to afford to fight expensive court cases to get access to information which the Constitution says should be theirs by right. We are particularly concerned that changes to the Bill which the ruling party had promised to make before the election seem to have been withdrawn. We understood that these were made in good faith with a view to improving the Bill. To make concessions before an election and then withdraw them a week later smacks of cynicism and treats our citizens with contempt.

This follows on from a disgracefully poor consultation process last year, in which politicians seemed not to be interested in listening to the concerns of communities. Of course, we understand the need to replace apartheid-era secrecy laws. However, they must be replaced by legislation which makes government more transparent and accountable, not less. The danger with the legislation as it currently stands is that it seems to fly in the face of Article 32 of the Constitution, which is clear that every citizen has the right to access any information required for the exercise or protection of any rights.

If the legislation does go through, we expect it to be followed by numerous lengthy and expensive court challenges, during which time government will make decisions behind the back of citizens and communities. Our poorest citizens, who cannot afford legal redress, will suffer most. We appeal for good sense to prevail. There is no pressing need for this legislation to be brought forward so quickly. We humbly request the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bill and Minister Siyabonga Cwele to pause, to listen to the voice of the people, and to take the time to get this critical piece of legislation in line with the spirit of the Constitution and the needs of our people. ENDS

For further comment on this press statement, please contact Fr. John Oliver on 021 462 2277 WCRLF Zonnebloem Estate, Cambridge Street, Cape Town 8001

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2 responses to this post.

  1. It is very important to see the country in one action irrespective of religious, Cristian religion is as people who are not suppose involve themselves in politics. We are community members and activists, thanks to Kairos and the forum to engage on this matter. Human rights violation is a crime, we must know when our tax money is misused by the the so called government officials and leaders.

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  2. It is very important to see the country in one action irrespective of religion. Two young woman questioned me what Cristian has to do with politics? As I was explaining to them about what is Cristianity and communist, they realized that we are community members and activists, thanks to Kairos and the WCRForum to engage on this matter. Human rights violation is a crime, we must know when our tax money is misused by the so called government officials and leaders.

    Like

    Reply

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