Opponents of the Secrecy Bill believe its delay signifies a division within the ANC over its contents – a claim which the party denies.
The proposal, also known as the Protection of Information Bill, would give the minister of State Security the power to classify government information. Unauthorised people found in possession of such information could then be prosecuted and face jail terms. This would include journalists and whistleblowers.
The Bill was supposed to be voted on in Parliament on Tuesday 20. It is now in the hands of the National Assembly and not the ad hoc committee.
Right2Know campaigner Dale McKinley said the delay shows “dissension within the ANC itself [over the Bill]”.
The ANC have denied this and said the reason for the delay is to allow further consultation on the Bill. Motshekga believes the Bill will be approved before the end of the year.
The Right2Know Campaign held a night vigil on Monday night in opposition to the proposal. Organiser for the group’s Gauteng campaign, Siphiwe Segodi, said if the bill were passed in its current form it would mean the “death of [our] democracy”.
About 120 people attended the vigil on Constitution Hill and spoke out about how the Bill would affect them.
Segodi said he was not confident the Bill would be dropped or radically changed because of the ANC’s majority in Parliament.
Lyndall Shope-Mafole, Congress of the People leader in the Gauteng legislature, said:
“When I was still part of the ANC, we talked about this threat, while we were in Polokwane. This is exactly what we meant in 2008 and that is what is happening now. We should not be silenced.”
Opposition groups claim the Bill will allow the government to hide corruption and mismanagement.
“There is no reason whatsoever, limited as our current freedom is, that we should give it away in inches again like this,” said a member of the Media Organisation of South Africa.