Greenpeace Africa is opposed to the proposed Bill because it aims to impose blanket restrictions on our Constitutional rights, including the freedom to receive or impart information and to access to information, and the right to unarmed, peaceful assembly, and protest and picketing.
“Greenpeace Africa is concerned that the Bill represents a shift away from the core principles on which the South African Constitution is based towards the restriction and repression of dissent, ostensibly in the interest of national security. The Bill proposes jail terms of up to 30 years for protesting at ‘National Key Points’ around the country, which we believe is simply indefensible”, stated Happy Khambule, Senior Political Advisor for Greenpeace Africa.
Democratic countries throughout the world accept that civil society organisations and protest actions play an important role in a healthy democracy. These actions are justifiable because they are necessary to avert greater harm to public interest. If the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill were to be enacted in its present form, it would criminalise many activities which many civil society organisations including Greenpeace Africa undertake to promote public debate and help create change.
Greenpeace Africa is committed to democratic principles (including freedom of expression and assembly). We believe in the right to peaceful protest and are vehemently opposed to the enactment of such sweeping security legislation, particularly in the absence of credible evidence of the existence of serious threats which cannot be adequately addressed by existing legislation. The Bill should be abandoned completely, or must be amended to align with the Constitution. If it is amended, it must adopt significantly less restrictive measures to achieve the purposes of the Bill. There is nothing to fear from peaceful protest, unless there is a repressive regime in power.
If this Bill goes ahead, it will raise serious questions about the health of our constitutional democracy, and whether the government is committed to cracking down on civil society and social movements, or do they wish to invest in enabling a vibrant state of conversation and public debate.
Ingakane@greenpeace.org; Greenpeace Africa: Climate and Energy Communications Officer; +27 82 614 2676