South Africa: What is the controversial “The Protection of Information Bill”?

Recently, the South Africa’s parliament has passed legislation aimed at better protecting state secrets. The measure has been widely criticised for provisions that could help the government hide corruption. The bill named “The Protection of Information Bill” is aimed at ensuring “a coherent approach to protection of state information and the classification and declassification of state information and will create a legislative framework for the state to respond to espionage and other associated hostile activities”. Here are some important points:

  • Foreign spies are required to register their status as agents with the government or face between three to five years in prison.
  • The bill applies to all organs of the state, including municipalities, with the state security minister deciding what is a part of the government. The measure applies to all information regarded as “valuable” to the state. The State agencies will set up procedures for managing sensitive information. The sensitive information includes matters “relating to the protection and preservation of all things owned or maintained for the public by the state”, state security, economic growth, scientific achievements and diplomacy.
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