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Controversial Witness List Set by South African Committee

Source: freedominfo.org

Date: 20 March 2012

After initially having been excluded from the witness list, the South African Right2Know Coalition has been invited to testify before a legislative committee considering the Protection of State Information bill.

The committee relented following objections by opposition party representatives on the panel and added the coalition to the list of 18 witnesses who will give presentations during four days of public hearings to begin March 27.

The Right2Know Coalition has prepared a statement on the legislation.

Attention also has been drawn in media reports to the limited number of media-related witnesses, two, on the witness list. The hearings are being held by the ad hoc committee of the National Council of Provinces , which is dominated by African National Congress members.

The committee will hear objections to the contentious bill from most witnesses, including public protector Thuli Madonsela, the South African Human Rights Commission and human rights lawyer George Bizos. Corruption Watch, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and its affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, also were shortlisted.

The committee decided not to accepts proposals to testify by Media24 journalist Cera-Jane Catton; former editor-in-chief of The Star newspaper Harvey Tyson; Jane Duncan, chair of the Media and Information Society (Highway Africa); Marian Pike, lecturer in media studies and public relations management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology; Print Media SA; and the Media Institute of SA.

The media will be represented by two organizations, the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA).

Most of the witnesses are expected to be critical of the bill.

Eleven opposition parties were planning a March 17 joint public rally in Khayelitsha to oppose the bill without the inclusion of a public interest defense clause, according to a Business Day report.

The committee received more than 250 written submissions.

The list for oral presentation is: Advocate Thuli Madonsela; George Bizos SC, on behalf of the Legal Resources Centre; the SA Human Rights Council; the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory at the Nelson Mandela Foundation; Cosatu; Webber Wentzel on behalf of Sanef; the Helen Suzman Foundation; Lizette Burger on behalf of the Law Society of SA; advocate Mike Pothier on behalf of the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference; Kobus van Rooyen on behalf of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies; Alison Tilley on behalf of the Open Democracy Advice Centre; David Lewis on behalf of Corruption Watch; W Aroun on behalf of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA; Reverend Ivan Booth from the Diakonia Council of Churches; William Bird for MMA; Dr Jeffrey Mabelebele on behalf of Higher Education South Africa; Murray Hunter from R2K: and Mark Weinberg on behalf of the Alternative Information and Development Centre.