UCT staff and students joined the thousands that took part in the Right 2 Know march on Saturday, 17 September, winding their way through the streets of Cape Town to Parliament, in protest against the Protection of Information Bill.
|Saying no to secrecy: Dr Max Price (second from left, front) and, immediately to his left, UCT graduate Jonathan Shapiro (better known as cartoonist Zapiro) were among the marchers.||Mass action: Protestors filled the streets of Cape Town as they marched on Parliament.|
Among those who addressed the throng at Parliament were the vice-chancellor, Dr Max Price; president of the Students’ Representative Council, Amanda Ngwenya; former minister of intelligence Ronnie Kasrils; and the leader of the Treatment Action Campaign, Zackie Achmat. One by one the speakers raised their objections to the Bill, which goes before the National Assembly tomorrow (Tuesday, 20 September).
“We must oppose at each turn those who make that struggle [against the repression of civil liberties] meaningless,” said Ngwenya. “The people who will suffer most are the poor and vulnerable communities, who need to access information . . . that politicians hide,” said Achmat. “If you’re a loyal member of your family, if you love your family, you raise your voice and you say, ‘That is wrong, it must not be done’,” said Kasrils, explaining why he, a former Member of Parliament and a “lifelong member” of the African National Congress, joined the march.
“This campaign, this coalition of students, of citizens, of NGOs, even of political parties, this campaign has changed the original Bill, and we have won victories, and we must realise how strong we are and that we have the strength to win the last victory,” said Price.
Among the marchers were academics, students and PASS staff from the Graduate School of Business, the Faculty of Law, the International Academic Programmes Office, the Departments of English and Sociology, even the UCT Rugby Club, among others.
On the eve of the march, UCT’s Senate also issued a statement decrying the Bill, noting that it would appeal to Parliament to include, among other things, a clause that would allow for classified information that conceals wrongdoing or maladministration to be exposed in the public interest. Senate also raised concerns about the lack of an appeal mechanism other than the minister who classifies the information.
Senate would also, the statement said, appeal directly to President Jacob Zuma to refer the Bill to the Constitutional Court for pre-promulgation certification should Parliament not make suitable amendments.