City of Johannesburg wants to implement its own secrecy bill
Mmusi Maimane, DA National Spokesperson
27 July 2012
Last night, the ANC in the City of Johannesburg proposed that the City develop its own secrecy rules. Councillor Sol Cowan of the ANC proposed that the City initiate drafting rules and regulations that would allow the City to classify certain documents as “sensitive”, thereby ensuring that those documents are not made available to the public.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) and all other opposition parties in the Johannesburg City Council opposed the proposal. We tried to reason with the ANC in council, but the ANC refused to debate the issue constructively, prompting a walkout by all opposition parties.
We will not tolerate the classification of information that should be available to the public. The only motivation for implementing such rules is to cover up corruption and maladministration.
The decision by the ANC to push for this secrecy rule came after the DA questioned the legality of several contracts the City of Johannesburg entered into for the hosting of the Miss World competition in 2008 and 2009. More than R120 million was spent on these events.
After two years of demanding access to these contracts, they were finally placed before the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC), with the condition that members of the MPAC committee sign confidentiality agreements before receiving the information. The DA refused to sign these confidentiality agreements, as they would severely undermine the MPAC members’ ability to hold the City publicly accountable.
When the documents finally came before council last night, they were accompanied with a rule that would allow the ANC in council to classify this document, and any other document it sees fit, as “sensitive” and therefore classified.
This is essentially a blank cheque to cover up corruption and maladministration.
This raises several troubling questions:
• What is the ANC in Johannesburg trying to hide?
• On two separate occasions, the ANC has gone to great lengths to keep this information secret. Firstly by making the DA members of the MPAC committee sign confidentiality agreements, and secondly by enforcing this secrecy rule in Council. What are they hiding?
• What, exactly, about a Miss World Pageant could be deemed “sensitive” by the City?
• Why did it take two years for the documents to be brought forward in the first place?
Clearly, something is not right here. The ANC is actively trying to hide this information from the public.
We will not sit back and allow the ANC to undermine transparency, accountability and good governance principles. We will challenge the validity of this rule and will be seeking advice on how to best combat this proposal.
We will challenge this proposal at every level.