COSATU rejects the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill’s shocking undermining of the Constitution

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) rejects the General Intelligence Laws Amendment (GILA) Bill’s shocking attempt to undermine of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.  This Bill drafted by the State Security Agency on behalf of the Presidency has been approved by Cabinet for tabling at Parliament.  Whilst some of its provisions are administrative in nature e.g. establishing the National Intelligence Academy or are necessitated by the Zondo Commission recommendations to separate domestic from foreign intelligence gathering, the Bill as a whole is contaminated by its shameless attempts to bizarrely introduce a creeping security state through the back door.

The Bill contains two fundamentally unconstitutional provisions that need to be removed entirely.  The first is the unwieldly extension of the definition of threats to national security to include anything that may threaten “equality and equitable access to opportunities”  as well as “measures and activities that seek to advance and promote peace and harmony and freedom from fear and want”.  These new definitions are so vague and ill defined.  They will provide a blank cheque to the security services to classify all manner of issues as a threat to national security and place millions of South Africans in danger of being accused of being threats to national security and hence risk prosecution. 

The second constitutionally delinquent thrust of the GILA Bill is to require the state security services to vet any person who seeks to establish a non-governmental organisation (NGO), church or religious institution.  This is a naked power grab by bored state security bureaucrats and needs to be rejected with the contempt it deserves.  The Constitution guarantees the right of all South Africans the rights of political association, to establish trade unions, freedom of religion etc.  There is no provision in the Constitution that says these are subject to the approval of state security.  NGOs include trade unions, political parties, civics, neighbourhood watches amongst others.  They are called non-governmental organisations precisely because they are not subject to governmental approval.  This is constitutional law 101!

If this embarrassing Bill is tabled and approved by Parliament and assented to by the President, it will mark a shameful moment in our nascent constitutional democracy.  It will be challenged in the Constitutional Court and will not pass constitutional muster. 

Cabinet needs to spare the nation the embarrassment of such an offensive Bill and withdraw it.  The fact that this Bill was certified by the State Law Advisors begs the question as to which Constitution are they reading?  Its approval by Cabinet reflects badly on Cabinet and one hopes that the President and his Ministers did not bother to read the Bill.  State Security is clearly not familiar with the Constitution.  Future legislation governing state security needs to be drafted by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to avoid a repeat of such dangerous legislative proposals in future.  COSATU for its part will ensure these unconstitutional provisions are not passed into law.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687