A Speech by Hon Mr. Teboho Edwin Chaane (MP) on the Occasion of theConsideration of the Protection of State Information Bill [B 6B-2010] (Section 75)

29 November 2012

The Honourable Chairperson
Honourable Minister Cwele
Honourable Members
Special Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is common cause that our democratic constitution makes provision for South Africa citizens to be informed of the activities of their Government. It is common cause that our Nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information. Under general principles, the Bill acknowledges that free flow of state information promotes openness, responsiveness, informed debate, accountability and good governance.

It can promote safety and security. However our constitution also requires that certain information be maintain in confidence in order to protect our citizens, our democratic institutions, security and our interaction with international friends and allies. Protecting information is critical to the wellbeing of any country and its citizens. It is vital to save lives, to enhance and protect the freedoms and security of the people and protect the national security.

Central to the Bill being debated today is the protection of national security. National security has no single universal meaning accepted by all countries in the world. Its meaning differs from one state to the other. In trying to grapple with this matter, the Democratic Alliance (DA), Congress of the People (COPE) and the Independent Democrats (ID) objects to the inclusion of valuable information in the Bill that primarily should deal with national security. In their submission, they lack the understanding that national valuables forms part of national security. We differ strongly with them on this point as theirs is a narrow and dangerously misleading point. Valuable information is information that has considerable importance to the Republic’s mission and or could lead to possible harm to the country and its citizens. It therefore cannot just be treated like any other information of no importance and value as our colleagues would want everyone to believe. The inclusion of valuable information is legitimate and needs to be defended.

To support my point, Gen Maxwel Taylor of the US army , in his essay of 1974 titled “The legitimate claims of national security”has this to say;“The National valuables in this broad sense include current assets and national interest, as well as the sources of strength upon which our future as a nation depends. Some valuables are tangible and earthy, others are spiritual or intellectual. They range widely from political assets such as the Bill of Rights, our political institutions and international friendships, to many economic assets which radiate worldwide from a highly productive democratic economy supported by rich natural resources. It is the urgent need to protect valuables such as these which legitimises and makes essential the role of national security’’.

This quote shows clearly that even the world’s most advanced democracies recognise the importance and legitimacy of protecting national valuables, something that our opposition lacks to appreciate.

Now for the benefit of ordinary members of our citizenry we contend that in the same way there is a doctor and patient confidentiality, in the same way that financial institutions like banks, insurance companies etc are required to handle their clients’ records with due care and diligence and protect it, every single one of us have a secret, every party/organisation has secrets and individually or otherwise have some form of protection of such secrets. In the same manner the state has the responsibility and is legally bound to protect its information against any unlawful alteration, disclosure, destruction or loss.

In doing so the Bill requires of the state to take measures that must have regard to the freedom of expression and the right to access to information and other rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. If one carefully peruses this Bill in its entirety, something that the opposition and their media friends failed to do, one would realise that it covers all those concerns they so much make noise about.

Chairman, allow me the opportunity to address some of the accusation levelled against the African National Congress (ANC) during the so called dramatic event of the 27 November 2012 when the opposition parties walk-out of the meeting. The question is why they left and what does it mean. Contrary to what they deceitfully said to the public, they left because when we were busy engaging with volumes of submissions received from general public, they were busy enjoying free media airtime to profile themselves and their parties. They were busy courting each other seeking public approval to justify their funny marriage of destruction. They left because some had long taken a default position not to engage with the Bill but to rather mobilise our people against it. They held a false hope that this Bill will never see the light of the day. What did they achieve, nothing, instead they realise too late that theirs was a disservice to the country, hence they are debating today. By walking out of a meeting they demonstrated how audaciously rude and disrespectful they can be to the nation, a behaviour we strongly condemn. As if that was not bad enough, they showed their shameful faces to the nation and accuse the ANC of being unfair, intolerant and of having steamrollered the process. What a cheek, who is a hypocrite here.

Honourable Chairperson, let facts speak for themselves. The ad-hoc committee was established on 22 November 2011 and was due to report back on the 08 April 2012. Upon realisation of the voluminous work outstanding then, the ANC, through consensus, extended the reporting date five times to date, yet Cope has the nerve to accuse us of steamrolling the process. How is that possible after holding 24 meetings plus almost 20 provincial hearings defeats logic.

The minimum turnaround time to process Bills in the NCOP is six weeks and this Bill took us twelve months of intense engagements with various stakeholders to finalise yet the DA accuses us of being unfair to the electorate thus exposing their motive, to delay the process so that they can use it as an election campaign toolkit. Throughout the process, decisions were taken without a vote and in all instances after the ANC’s elaborate and substantive motivation, yet the ID has the nerve to accuse us of being intolerable. What a shame.

The ANC has been very tolerant, accommodative and ridiculously fair and patient with the processes leading up to today’s debate. We stand here without any doubt in our minds that we have listened to the views of the people and have to the best of our abilities ensured that this Bill passes the constitutional muster.

We thank our people, alliance partners, NGOs, chapter nine institutions, law firms, organised media houses, and everyone who made submissions to enrich this Bill. We indeed were enriched by your submissions and finish this process wiser than we were when we started.

The ANC supports the proposed amendments to the Bill.

I thank you!