2000

UNITED DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT

MEDIA RELEASE


THE OPEN DEMOCRACY BILL

MEDIA STATEMENT ISSUED BY MASILO MABETA, MP,
UDM SPOKESPERSON ON JUSTICE

The UDM would like to state unequivocally that we want to support the Open Democracy Bill. This proposed legislation is a valuable effort towards enacting Clause 32 of the Constitution with regard to the individual’s right to information.

However, as the draft currently stands, we cannot support the clause that gives Government the right to access information held by a private body when acting in the public interest.

We can see absolutely no reason for the Government to increase its existing powers of access and seizure in this manner. Existing legislation adequately covers the needs of Government with regard to access to information in criminal investigations, security matters and other areas. The current proposal, furthermore, misuses the intention of Clause 32 of the Constitution, namely to protect the rights of the individual against encroachment by the State.

The UDM thus objects to this clause in the proposed legislation for two reasons. Firstly, that it is patently unconstitutional. Secondly, the desirability of this proposal is spurious. In fact, the ANC members on the Open Democracy Bill Committee have failed to convincingly indicate why this proposal is desirable to them. The ANC has rather opted for criticising and rejecting alternative proposals that would be constitutional.

The UDM has a third major concern with this proposal. The suggestion of the Government being granted this right to privately held information when acting in the ‘public interest’. Clearly, this is a ‘carte blanche’ justification, and not as the ANC will have us believe, a limiting or restricting qualification of this ‘right’ which they want to give the Government. Obviously the Government itself will be the sole arbiter of what the ‘public interest’ demands in any specific instance.

The UDM is perturbed by the above developments. It portrays, once again, the ‘Big Brother’ mentality that increasingly manifests itself in spheres of ANC thinking, aimed at increasing the reach of the state’s tentacles at the expense of individuals. This mentality must be opposed.


Enquiries:
Masilo Mabeta, MP

Cape Town
18 January 2000