Constitutional Hill

Selling horse droppings as figs

In Afrikaans we have a striking saying describing rather accurately what the keepers of secrets (yes, the spies and double agents and professional liars in the intelligence agencies) are  trying to do with its latest range of advertisements promoting the Secrecy Bill: “Hulle will ons nou wysmaak dat perdedrolle, vye is”. (“Now they want to convince us that horse droppings are really figs.”)

Apart from the fact that the government is not supposed to promote a Bill currently still serving before Parliament and not yet passed into law (as Parliament is currently seized of this matter, and the executive has no truck with the Bill until it is actually passed and becomes law), the advertisements are about as honest and truthful as your average Senior Manager at the Department of Public Works testifying at the Bheki Cele Inquiry.

I focus on the English version, which can be played via YouTube:


The text of the advert is as follows:

Female Voice: “Are you following the whole debate about this new law everyone is talking about? Something about state information?”

Male Voice: “Yes. And I see why government worries. All this stuff about identity theft, people being long dead but collecting pensions, the list is endless.”

Female Voice: “But what about corruption? How will the government deal with that?”

Male Voice: “The bill makes it clear that if people try to cover up corruption they will go to jail for up to 15 years, and whistleblowers will be protected.”

Female Voice: “That’s good. But will we still be able to get the information we need from the government?”

Male Voice: “Yes. Our constitution gives us that right. As for the press, the bill doesn’t suppress press freedom at all. When you want information that is classified, you just have to apply for it. If you are still not happy, you can go to court and the judge will decide if it is in everyone’s interest.”

Female Voice: “Yes, sounds reasonable.”

Male Voice: “The thing is that government has to protect its information from criminals. There are spies out there that want to steal our information to develop their own countries at our expense.”

Female Voice: “I see. I want to familiarise myself with the bill more. There’s so much I didn’t know.”

Male Voice: “Great, ‘cause it’s really important that government protects its information. It is about protecting our country and its hard-won freedom. Ensuring that we all live in peace, security and prosperity.”

The thing is, the Secrecy Bill has absolutely nothing to do with identity theft and neither has it anything to do with people fraudulently collecting pensions if they are not entitled to do so. Although section 8 and 9 of the Secrecy Bill deals with the protection of valuable information (which could include personal information about one’s ID held by the state), and although these sections state that such information warrants “a degree of protection and administrative control and must be handled with due care and only in accordance with authorised procedures”, the Bill does not actually criminalise the selling of your ID by a state official and is in no way dealing with identity theft. What a very small part of the Bill does (about 4 of the more than 50 clauses in the Bill) is that it prohibits any person from unlawfully and intentionally destroying, removing, altering or erasing valuable information.

A state official would therefore be punished in terms of this Bill if he or she deleted your ID information from the government database. What the Bill would not deal with at all is identity theft or pension fraud. The law already punishes fraudulent selling of your ID information to others as well as pension fraud, and this Bill has absolutely nothing to do with that. In other words this advert is deceitful and dishonest. This is perhaps not surprising, as the adverts were cooked up by the very spies who, we are told, we should trust with decisions about the need to classify state documents as secret or top secret. I would not trust these people when they tell me what the weather will be like tomorrow – let alone with these decisions that may well hide serious criminality and corruption. (General Mdluli, are you there?)

Ironically, what the adverts do,  is to illustrate beyond all doubt why this Bill is so dangerous. If these people are prepared to deceive the public so blatantly and openly, why would they not lie to us about the existence of wrongly and unlawfully classified documents which we might need to get access to in order to expose corruption or in order to expose the blatant flouting of the law and undermining of our democracy by the intelligence services?

The “safeguards” in the Bill which the advert talks about are therefore illusory. If it is a criminal offense to be in possession of a classified document, and if one tries to get access to a wrongly classified document, the spies will merely claim that the document does not exist, finish en klaar. If one then claims to have seen the document, one will be arrested and charged for possessing a classified document and to admitting to having committed a crime and one could be sentenced to a long period in jail for possessing even an illegally classified document.

It is true that section 43 of the Bill states that a person who is protected by the Protected Disclosures Act may disclose documents despite any provisions in the Bill, which means that a very brave (some would say very stupid) state employee who discovers documents demonstrating criminal activity or corruption by the intelligence services, may leak such documents to, say, the Public Protector.

What the advert does not say is that the Public Protector will then immediately have to take the leaked documents showing serious criminal activity to the nearest Police Station where one of Richard Mdluli’s cronies will be able to receive the document and “deal” with it to protect the intelligence services and those exposed as criminals or crooks in the documents. The Public Protector can then try and get access to the document via various means and after several years – and assuming rather optimistically – that the document had not been “lost” (in other words, destroyed), she might finally get access to that document – long after the crime was committed and the cover up effectively instituted, the witnesses “disappeared” or intimidated into silence or packed off to Tjikitjikistan as the undersecretary of culture.

Moreover, the advert seems to suggest that all active citizens are really no more than potential criminals, suggesting how the paranoid spies view us ordinary citizens. It says that the state has to protect its information from criminals, but it is exactly the kinds of information that we need as citizens that we will be “protected” from accessing. We will not ever again be able to know that intelligence services had concocted another Browse Mole Report to discredit the enemies of the sitting President. We will not ever again be able to know that the spies had taped telephone conversations between politicians or between NPA members. We will not know that senior ANC leaders have been spied on by the intelligence services because the President thought that these leaders might pose a threat to his political ambitions.

Of course, the adverts also display the kind of paranoia that is familiar to students of any fascist police state. Hence it suggests that we need to protect state secrets because if any of these secrets held by the state are ever released, our very freedom (the freedom curtailed by this Bill) will be threatened. Now, I for one cannot imagine what secrets the spies are keeping that are so earthshattering that it would threaten the very life of our nation and our Constitution if it were to be made public. Could it be information about financial donations made by foreign dictators to the President or the governing party? Information about the sex-lives of politicians illegally spied upon by the intelligence services on instructions from the President? Maybe there are documents proving that our spies are plotting to assassinate the President of the United States, which, if revealed, could lead to a US military invasion.

But I doubt that any of these documents exist and even if they did, we will be protected by its disclosure (and disclosure of the unlawful actions by the intelligence services who might have compiled these documents illegally), not by keeping them secret.

This Bill is about protecting the intelligence services and drawing a veil of secrecy over their often unlawful activities in order to enhance the powers of the spies, create a police state within a state and protect the leadership of the incumbent faction inside the ANC from embarrassment and from being ousted in quasi-democratic party elections. It is not about freedom but un-freedom, not about democracy but a threat to our democracy.

If you believe otherwise, I am sure you will also believe me when I say that you should please send me all your banking details (including password) immediately so that I can transfer a few million dollars into your account, which I will do because I need your assistance with transferring fabulous amounts of money into South Africa.

  • Pierre De Vos

    And Jimmy Manyi now wants to keep the cost of these adds secret because the executive is not accountable to citizens – only to Parliament:

  • Sine

    The crazies running the asylum I guess…

  • Gwebecimele


  • Gwebecimele

    From blue light to Inyala. Is that a cabinet minister toy toying with the crowd?

  • Lisbeth

    “… the blatant flaunting of the law …”

    Flouting, please Pierre. “The blatant *flouting* of the law”.

  • Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!

    Action-Plan Man to the rescue!!!!!!!!

    New policy action plan to create jobs: minister

  • Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!

    As Zuma says ‘some among us’ are thugs!

    PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma’s NGO collapsed after she was accused of spending funds on matters unrelated to the charity.

  • Chris (Not the right wing guy)

    Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!
    April 2, 2012 at 19:04 pm

    Its fine to be a thug, just don’t call someone a gangster!

  • Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!

    Chris (Not the right wing guy)
    April 2, 2012 at 19:10 pm

    Hey Right Wing Guy,

    It’s outrageous that Zuma insults and offends the entire nation calling us “a nation of thugs”.

    Having been elected to lead and build on a 100 year old movement he’s turned it into a mess and now he’s blaming the entire country for his failings.

    And his house of cards is crumbling and with it the credibility and dignity of South Africa goes too.

    It’s disappointing that someone who millions of us supported to lead us to a better tomorrow is so shameless and immoral – for the sake of the country and the ANC Zuma must go!

  • Gwebecimele
  • khosi

    Pardon my ignorance, but who is Gen. Richard Mduli? I tried google and bing but I could not find this person.

  • ozoneblue

    April 3, 2012 at 8:26 am

    “but who is Gen. Richard Mduli?”

    He is a spy for the Illuminati of reptilian decent. Just like prof Chameleon and the maggot I suspect.

  • ozoneblue

    Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!
    April 2, 2012 at 19:04 pm

    Now here is a master plan for Cde Zuma.

    Just refer it to the PP and say him and his wives have done nothing wrong and everybody will be fawning over him for his commendable integrity/transparency and suitability to hold office.

  • ozoneblue

    The PP is a very busy woman nowadays.

    Looks like everything even remotely related to an ANC politician is being “referred” to her now from the drunken uncle who ate too much pudding at the family braai to little Sipho who helped himself to the 50c left in the shoe for the tooth fairy.

  • Cicero Langa

    “The ANC is our democratic government. For the people, from the people… That apparently doesn’t like the people.” – Evita Bezuidenhout

  • ozoneblue – Obama must go!

    ooops – Another “Stalinist” black president that doesn’t understand democrazy.

    “Barack Obama has said it would be wrong for the “unelected” supreme court to take the “unprecedented and extraordinary” decision to strike down his signature health care legislation when it was passed by an elected Congress.”

  • Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!

    April 3, 2012 at 10:10 am and everywhere else.

    Hey OB,


    Until now ZooKy disagreed on almost everything – you’ve managed to change that.

    We agree on something at last.

    I agree entirely with ZooKy when he said “OB, you never, ever make a word of sense”.

    It seems that you only make sense to Prof MO (who sometimes doubles up as Dworky).

  • ozoneblue – Obama must go!

    Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!
    April 3, 2012 at 13:04 pm

    I make 100% sense.

    Perhaps you should drop your WHITISH prejudice against African presidents and just concede that the sons of uneducated sheep-herders don’t understand “constitutional democracy” and that both prez Obama and Zuma must go!

  • :isbeth

    Today, at 4 pm, Jacob Zuma and Khalema Motlanthe will address the media. This is an unprecedented move. The subject will be the accusations levelled against the ANC by Julius Malema and Reuel Khoza (Chairman of Nedbank Group). Switch on your radios; should be interesting.

  • ozoneblue – Obama must go!

    Julius “bling the boer” Malema. Preaching to the world about “ethics”.


  • ozoneblue – Obama must go!

    Eish – Black fascist Juju is one his way out bouncing with the bling and all as the “Stalinists” have spoken with one voice.

  • Gwebecimele

    @ isbeth

    One day you will wake up to the reality that ANC never announces big decisions.

  • sbeth

    Hey Gwebecimele! I just have (woken up to that reality) *yawn*

  • Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!

    April 3, 2012 at 15:43 pm


    You need a colectomy!

    Re “should be interesting”.

    Boring stuff!

    But they did spot Friends of ET in the midst of the ANC.

    We are therefore very concerned about some alien behavior within our movement

  • Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!

    ozoneblue – Obama must go!
    April 3, 2012 at 13:42 pm

    LOL OB,

    “I make 100% sense.”

    Now that’s truly “selling horse droppings as figs”!

  • ozoneblue – Obama must go!

    Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!
    April 3, 2012 at 19:08 pm

    From the media conference it struck me that the only horse droppings as figs are the “divisions within the party” artificially manufactured by the Juju personality cult as backed by the “constitutional experts” and the mass media.

  • Lisbeth


    SA is widely recognised for its liberal and enlightened constitution, yet we observe the emergence of a strange breed of leaders who are determined to undermine the rule of law and override the constitution. Our political leadership’s moral quotient is degenerating and we are fast losing the checks and balances that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of the past. This is not the accountable democracy for which generations suffered and fought.

    The integrity, health, socioeconomic soundness and prosperity of SA is the collective responsibility of all citizens, corporate or individual. We have a duty to build and develop this nation and to call to book the putative leaders who, due to sheer incapacity to deal with the complexity of 21st century governance and leadership, cannot lead.

    We have a duty to insist on strict adherence to the institutional forms that underpin our young democracy.

    (Reuel Khoza’s message to Government. This stuff gets read all over the world.)

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    I say that the so called “disunity” in the ANC is largely a figment of WISHFUL WHITISTS. The fact is that no one is above the ANC, and any member in good standing can stand for office. Our people will continue to vote ANC no matter what. Just look at last week’s bye elections. 14 out of 15 won by ANC, with overwhelming majorities. How do you explain that, Maggs?

  • Maggs Naidu – Zuma must go!

    Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder
    April 4, 2012 at 0:17 am


    I explain it by advising that “Reuel Khoza must sell Nedbank. He has been told to do so by the biggest shareholder . He has failed to do so, he has tried two deals, they [both] fell through under his watch. What kind of a leader is that who allows deals to fall through under his watch and still criticises political leadership?”

    And as for Ms Thuli, she better focus on keeping the keys of her ex-X6 safely hidden away from her son.

  • Gwebecimele

    STEVEN FRIEDMAN: Affluent have done well out of ANC dominance
    A party that does not face defeat has no need to buy voter support by spending money it does not have

    Published: 2012/04/04 07:48:05 AM

    “IT IS the great irony of our politics that the minorities who bemoan the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) dominance at the polls benefit most from it, while the losers are the majority that returns it to power.”

  • Gwebecimele

    This Chairman can talk because he found a buyer for ABSA.

  • Gwebecimele

    It is sad that by becoming a municipality councillor, you run the risk of being burnt in your house with your family or as a taxpayer/citizen you might be killed for demanding service delivery.

  • Gwebecimele

    Wait until they(workers) find out about where their pensions are invested.
    Providing loans for BEE sharks amongst other things.

  • Mikhail Dworkin Fassbinder

    @ Gwebe

    “Providing loans for BEE sharks amongst other things.”

    I agree that corruption must be rooted out everywhere. But please be careful about using language like “BEE sharks.” This is the kind of talk that DA WHITISTS exploit to advance their liberal idea that all black businessman are corrupt!


  • Gwebecimele

    @ Dworky

    You will be suprised that the DA are comfortable with “BEE sharks” WHO EAT AND FALL ASLEEP but do not like the Manyi & Malema version of BEE.

  • Brett Nortje

    ozoneblue says:
    April 3, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Jy is mos nou net besig om halstarrig te wees! Kort ‘n paar kopklappe.

    Ek het mos voorheen vir jou uitgewys hoekom jy stront praat.