The Protection of State Information Bill [B6B-2010], also known as the “Secrecy Bill” to many of its opponents, is the subject of intense public debate.
The ad hoc committee established by the National Council of Provinces to deal with the Bill has scheduled a number of public hearings throughout the country to encourage public participation and input on the Bill before it becomes law.
So far public hearings have been held in several parts of the country including the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Gauteng.
Both Cosatu and Numsa have made written submissions to the chairperson of the ad hoc committee expressing concerns about the Bill and its impact on the constitutional rights of citizens to access and disseminate information of public relevance.
In its submission, Numsa raised the following concerns:
The Bill compromises the provisions of the Constitution and the Freedom Charter with respect to access to information, freedom of expression and administrative justice.
Arbitrarily classifying information or criminalising the possession of information that has a right to be in the public domain could frustrate our efforts in a number of areas, including, but not limited to section 16 of the Labour Relations Act, which provides representative unions with the right to demand access to information in the course of collective bargaining, and section 31 of the National Environmental Management Act, which provides detailed protection for access to information and whistleblowers.
As a trade union Numsa is obliged to protect the interests of its members, and this includes encouraging the right of members to expose evidence of corruption, abuse of resources and improper activity.
As moral beings they will have to navigate between protecting their own jobs and taking the risk of acting in the public interest.
The Bill would suppress whistleblowers which would include workers and the trade unions representing them, as well as those that fall outside the ambit of employment contract relationships, such as independent contractors.
As the ad hoc committee prepares for its final round of public hearings in parliament, Numsa supports Cosatu’s call for the introduction of a public interest defence that would protect whistleblowers and the media from undue or inappropriate use of state machinery.
Of interest to labour ¬
Bills published for comment
National Energy Regulator Amendment Draft Bill (Department of Energy; Presentations were made to the Nedlac Trade and Industry Chamber on February 16 2012.)
Electricity Regulation Second Amendment Draft Bill ((Department of Energy; Presentations were made to the Nedlac Trade and Industry Chamber, February 16 2012.) Draft Policy & the Draft Bill on Development of Special Economic Zones in South Africa (Department of Trade and Industry).
The gazetting of the Bill and policy is the culmination of work done to broaden the scope and composition of dedicated industrial areas and to support industrial decentralisation.
Public comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by no later than March 22 2012.
B-BBEE Amendment Draft Bill (Department of Trade and Industry.
Presentation to Nedlac Trade and Industry Chamber, February 16 2012) Broadly, the Bill seeks to expand the definition of BBBEE (sustainable economic development of all black people); close the loopholes on “fronting” and sham BBBEE deals; provide for more severe penalties for fronting practices; and emphasise local content, as in the new Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) regulations.
The Bill establishes a BEE Commission whose job is to monitor compliance, fronting and interpretations, and to promote adherence to the act and advocacy of BEE.
In each Numsa News I provide updates on what’s happened in parliament. If you have questions about parliament, send them to:
Woody Aroun, at email@example.com;
fax to 021- 4617546 or post to NUMSA Parliamentary Office
Unit UA57-59 4th Floor,
No. 6 Spin Street
Cape Town CBD, 8001
Numsa News No 1, April 2012