Yesterday, the ANC-led government passed the Protection of State Information Bill - or the Secrecy Bill - despite widespread condemnation that this Bill will only serve to shield government from the current glare of daily corruption and scandal exposure. There is no other possible reason for such apartheid-era-type legislation. Together with the apartheid era laws such as the National Key Points Act, the Secrecy Bill will provide this government with the cover and threat of imprisonment against journalists, bloggers and whistleblowers to ensure it can continue mismanaging and thieving all it wants under the cover of secrecy (or national security and other vague language).
Within the domain of fisheries management, the Secrecy Bill will provide officials with the precise tools they presently wish they had. Recently, the DDG of Fisheries, Greta Apelgren-Narkedien complained bitterly about the "hostile" media and Feike (although she was too scared to even mention our name) and that our exposes were somehow a threat to fisheries!
The Secrecy Bill now makes it a criminal offence that is punishable with a 25 year imprisonment sentence for the disclosure of any "confidential information" that is determined by the state to be "hostile activity" for example. So, just on this score, Feike's Shaheen Moolla, could be jailed for up to 25 years for making public the recent parliamentary research unit report, which was suddenly declared to be a confidential internal document by the ANC after it was made public. And clearly the DDG considered this to be a "hostile" act.
The Secrecy Bill makes life extremely comfortable for the thieving, incompetent civil servant as they may be authorised to classify any document and then simply allege that knowledge of or possession or publication of the document is a "hostile" activity, and the legal onus then shifts to the accused to prove the impossible.
The Secrecy Bill could authorise an official at DAFF to classify a controversial TAC decision and all supporting documents as confidential. The department already makes available the most minimal information in order to shield itself from scrutiny. Its website simply does not function. There is no publicly accessible register of fishing rights, permits and licences, which the law presently requires should be accessible to anyone. Why is there no register? The department refuses access to scientific and management reports that are used in setting annual catch limits. Why is this the case?
It will not be long before this BLOG could be forced to report on the colour of sea only. Secrecy is perfect companion for corruption, mismanagement and incompetence in the civil service.