Africa: Bishops “Regret” Approval of the Protection of State Information Bill

Africa: Bishops “Regret” Approval of the Protection of State Information Bill

ZumaJohannesburg — The South African Bishops “regret” the approval of the Protection of State Information Bill and have ask President Jacob Zuma to refer it to the judgment of the Constitutional Court.

In a statement signed by Archbishop Stephen Brislin, of Cape Town and President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), they state that “President Zuma has the power to refer the Bill to the Constitutional Court before he signs it into law. We call upon him to do so, in order to avoid the risk of a prolonged and expensive court battle and the possibility of more parliamentary time being spent on amendments.”

On April 25, after 3 years of debate, often polemical, Parliament has finally approved the law that regulates State secret. Several criticisms have arisen on the text (which has undergone major amendments, however, compared to the original draft), in particular on its possible use to hide forms of corruption on behalf of administrators and politicians.

“To fight corruption we need more openness not more secrecy,” remarked Archbishop Brislin, who also judges as excessive the penalty (up to 25 years in prison) for those who reveal a State secret “knowing or ought reasonable to have known” thus benefitting a foreign State. This is one way, critics say, to gag those who intend to denounce criminal acts protected by State secrecy.

Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi)

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