The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) is deeply concerned about the General Intelligence Laws Amendment (GILA) Bill, known as the “Spy Bill”, as certain of its provisions undermine important constitutional rights.
Our first concern relates to the broad definition of threats to national security which includes 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 for South Africans.” This new definition is so wide that it will enable state security services to consider almost any manner of conduct as a threat to national security, and institute prosecution against anyone they perceive as a threat to national security. We have already seen abuses of state power as highlighted in the Mufamadi and Zondo Reports, and cannot leave this broad definition unchallenged.
Following an outcry about vetting of church and other leaders, the Bill was amended to remove direct references to vetting such leaders. The ACDP remains concerned, however, that the broad definition of “persons or institutions of national security interest” still includes religious organisations and their employees. This could result in vetting “through the back door.” Churches that fail to obtain a security clearance certificate may then be forced to close. It also puts such pastors and other religious leaders at risk of having their security clearances revoked should they be perceived as a state security risk. This is of huge concern, given the abuse of power by state security agencies that has already taken place. It also opens the door for the government to interfere in religious matters and is effectively a form of state regulation of religion. Vetting has also been used to marginalise critics, such as when a former State Security Agency director-general revoked the security clearance of the Inspector-General of Intelligence who was investigating his conduct.
It also flies in the face of the findings of the Mufamadi High level Panel on the State Security Agency (SSA) which made strong recommendations for a clearer and more focussed mandate for the county’s intelligence agencies.
This possible vetting requirement infringes on the constitutional rights of freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association and must be rejected. The wording of the Bill must be made clear to remove any such vetting.
The ACDP calls on all non-government organisations, churches and other faith–based organisations, and concerned citizens to send submissions in opposition to this Bill before the cut-off date which is 15 February 2024 to:
The Ad Hoc Committee on General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill
Re: The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill;
From: Name and Surname/ Church/ Organisation
The ACDP will do everything in its power to prevent these contentious provisions in the Bill being passed into law.