Hon Deputy Speaker and hon members, two years ago, on that now infamous Black Tuesday, this House sent a message to South Africa that the freedoms won by those who came before us can never be taken for granted. In a glaring assault on our Constitution, the ANC, dressed in the brightest colours and with iron-fisted determination, pushed through a Bill that would kill transparency, boost corruption and fundamentally undermine freedom of expression. It was a defining point in our democracy. We could either sit idly by while our freedoms were being undermined or we could fight in defence of our Constitution.
If ever we were unsure whether our democracy could sustain an attack of this magnitude from the governing party, our collective message was clear. Outside the gates of Parliament a coalition of civil society movements, the media and South African citizens were unrelenting in bringing pressure to bear on Parliament to ensure that this Bill be brought in line with the Constitution. Inside this House members from the opposition, including hon Dene Smuts, hon David Maynier, hon Mario Oriani-Ambrosini and hon Steven Swart, refused to back down in the face of this assault. They fought day in and day out to roll back the worst of this Bill. In the NCOP hon Alf Lees and hon Darryl Worth kept the pressure up. It was a coalition in defence of our Constitution. It was a coalition on which South Africans will look back in our history books and honour.
But our fight did not end there. While our efforts changed some of the worst aspects of the Bill, the Protection of State Information Bill that was passed this year remained inconsistent with the Constitution. The definition of "national security" remains too broad. This means that the state could still infringe on people's right to access information and undermine the constitutionally enshrined principle of freedom of expression. The Bill still does sowith the category of information which has nothing to do with security or classification called "valuable information". This allows the Minister of State Security to make regulations with respect to what is ordinary government record-keeping. This, in our view, is an attempt to perpetuate the minimum information security standard system which is currently only Cabinet policy.
Fundamentally, the Bill legislated on what is the provincial government competence of provincial archives. We therefore maintain that it should have been tagged as a section 76 Bill and not as section 75. It is for this reason that, following the National Assembly vote on the Bill, I petitioned the President in terms of section 79 of the Constitution to refer the Bill back to Parliament so that these problems could once and for all be corrected.
Confronted with these genuine substantive concerns and ahead of an election campaign in which his party is already on the back foot, the hon President could not simply sign this Bill into law, not without at least seeming to care about its constitutionality. Referring this Bill back to the House, he appears to have done so only to address technical and grammatical problems relating to clauses 42 and 45 of the Bill. There was no reference made to the broad definition of "national security", no reference to the "valuable information" and no reference to the incorrect tagging.
Let me be very clear, hon members,that the DA fully supports correcting these technical anomalies. It is a shame that the Bill was passed with them in the first place. But there is much more that needs to be fixed and the hon President knows this, because we submitted legal opinions to him which detail these problems in meticulous detail. Perhaps this is the reason why, despite precedent established by former President Thabo Mbeki and former President Motlanthe, whose referrals were detailed and clear, President Zuma's referral was vague. Perhaps this is also why the hon President did not respond to my letter requesting that he clarify the terms of his referral or to my second letter following up on the first, and perhaps this is why the ANC in the ad hoc committee refused the hon Smuts' request that the committee seek clarity on the referral from the hon President.
The DA will not give up fighting on this Bill. We will not stop until it is brought completely in line with the Constitution. We are not fooled by the public relations tactics of the Presidency. The ANC should be ashamed for thinking that South Africans will fall for these tactics. This is why I will again petition the President in terms of section 79 of the Constitution. This Bill must come back to Parliament and the real, substantive problems with it must be addressed. If that does not happen, this Bill will unavoidably end up in the Constitutional Court and this House and every member who supported this Bill will be left ashamed.
A government that supports an apartheid era National Key Points Act, which goes to court to prevent an investigative report into Nkandla from being released by the Public Protector, which classifies public documents regardless of the public interest, cannot be given even more power to put secrecy above transparency. [Applause.] Madam Deputy Speaker, the Security cluster under President Zuma, which is unrelenting in its effort to advance the course of secrecy, from Guptagate to Nkandlagate, from spy tapes to the proposed appointment of Robert McBride as the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, Ipid, from Marikana to the arms deal, should not be given more power to avoid accountability.
Hon Deputy Speaker, over the past two years our coalition in defence of the Constitution has held strong. We must now finish what we set out to achieve - a fully constitutional Protection of State Information Bill - and we must accept nothing less. I thank you. [Applause.]