An estimated 500 people from various parts of Gauteng marched yesterday afternoon, Tuesday, 19 October 2010, from Wits University to the Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, to vent their anger and frustration against the Protection of Information Bill - also known as the 'Secrecy Bill' - a soon-to-be enacted legislation many believe will stem the free access to information and create a totalitarian and secretive South Africa.
"An attack has been launched against us and we need to defend ourselves," march moderator and Right2Know coordinator Siphiwe Segodi told the excited crowd just after midday as they assembled in front of Wits Senate House in anticipation of the march."With our mouths taped"
"We will march silently to the Constitution Hill with our mouths taped, because this is what this legislation seeks to achieve," he added.
The ambiguous and much-hated Protection of Information Bill, an apartheid-old style legislation now being resuscitated by the 'democratic' government, will classify all information deemed 'sensitive and vital' for the security of the state. According to the bill, anyone found in possession of 'classified' information could be jailed for up to 25 years.
But, marching through Jorissen Street under heavy police guard and wearing white t-shirts printed with the slogan "I demand the right to know", some protesters slammed the ANC-led government, saying they are pushing the legislation with the sole motive to cover up corruption and mismanagement."Our Constitution is under threat"
Asked why they were marching to the Constitution Hill instead of any other place, Segodi said: "There is a constitutional stake here because our Constitution is under threat. The bill in its current form is unconstitutional and we believe that it should be radically revised."
Some of the banners read "Let's the truth be told", "Stop the Secrecy Bill", "Stop retrenchments, evictions and electricity cut-offs", and the most provocative one read "Arcelor-Mittal steeling our tomorrow", perhaps a reference to the world's largest steelmaker's R9.1 billion BEE deal involving President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane Zuma.
Segodi deplored the absence at the march of journalists and editors, who he said could also be severely affected if the bill were to be enacted. Protesters came from as far as Kwathema and Ramaphosa informal settlement on the East Rand, Sebokeng on the West Rand, and Soshanguve near Pretoria.Presence of township people
Segodi said the presence of township people shows that the 'problematic' bill does not only concern the media or the educated people, but SA society as a whole. "Many of these people belong to organisations and communities that seek information about service delivery on a regular basis," he explained.
Some wondered whether the march will have any effect whatsoever on the government's position on the legislation.
Segodi said: "We know that this is the stubborn government, but we are here to show them that this is the beginning of things to come."
Organisations that collaborated with Right2Know for the march include Black Sash and Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA).For more: