CAPE TOWN: South African President Jacob Zuma said yesterday he had sent a secrecy bill, seen as a threat to whistleblowers and investigative journalists, back to lawmakers to rework “irrational” clauses.
“I am of the view that the bill as it stands does not pass the constitutional muster,” he told journalists in Cape Town.
The information bill was passed in April by parliament and sent to Zuma to be signed into law, despite an outcry from activists that it will muzzle the media and provide cover for government corruption.
The bill, which targets the classification and protection of sensitive material, has been referred to parliament’s main chamber, the National Assembly, for reconsideration, Zuma said.
Two problematic sections in the legislation - known as the Protection of State Information Bill - lacked “meaning and coherence” and were “irrational” and “unconstitutional”, he said.
“I realised that there are sections that needed to be fixed,” said Zuma.
The president found fault with sections dealing with the failure to report the possession of classified information, and on the improper classification of material.
Under the bill, espionage-related cases carry a punishment of up to 25 years in jail, and holding or disclosing classified material carries a maximum of five years’ imprisonment.
The bill first mooted in 2008, is meant to replace an apartheid-era law. It has already gone through several amendments. AFP