Secrecy Bill could be first big one for Mogoeng

By Carien Du Plessis 5 September 2011

A challenge to the Protection of Information Bill, if it’s signed into law, will be one of the first cases that will come before chief justice nominee Mogoeng Mogoeng, if he is appointed. But first, the bill needs some finishing touches. CARIEN DU PLESSIS reports.

Lobby groups and opposition parties now believe it’s almost certain that the already notorious Protection of Information Bill will pass through the national assembly and the national council of provinces lacking an important clause which would keep journalists and whistleblowers out of jail if they disclosed classified information in the public interest.

The groups say the bill is unconstitutional without this defence. On Monday the parliamentary committee dealing with the bill is set to vote on it as a whole, after all of last week was spent voting on the bill clause by clause.

The committee still has to deal with the amendment to the memorandum to the bill, which sets out the objectives as well as the financial implications, which have not yet been calculated. This could cause yet more controversy. The DA and other opposition parties have said they would petition President Jacob Zuma to send the bill to the Constitutional Court if it passed through Parliament without providing for a public interest defence.

Parliament has not yet scheduled a date for the debate on the bill, and the process could still take a few weeks at least.

If the appointment of Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who was interviewed by the Judicial Service Council this weekend, goes ahead, he would be heading the Constitutional Court when the bill comes before it.

Judge Mogoeng would, however, not have any special influence on the court’s ruling on the bill, as the opinion of all 11 judges in the Constitutional Court have equal weight. Former Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo, for instance, differed from his colleagues on where the Hawks crime-fighting unit should be located, but he was in the minority and the ruling went the other way. DM






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