Today, we stand shoulder to shoulder against a common threat.
We are united in our determination to defeat an attack on our Constitution. The character of our free society is in mortal danger. The Secrecy Bill, if passed, will tear apart the values and principles of our Constitution.
There are times in the life of a country to put aside politics-as-usual. Such a moment is upon is. We dare not fail.
The Bill proposes to criminalise the freedoms that so many people fought for. Some of apartheid’s freedom fighters are gathered here today. We salute you. We thank you for helping to usher in a democratic order which enables us as free citizens to gather here today in support of the political movement of our choice. And we will honour you by fighting any attempts by the ANC to undo those hard-won freedoms.
Our history shows us that freedom must be fought for every single day of our lives. Whatever the outcome, we will never give up the fight. When power makes our leaders arrogant, free speech reminds them of their limitations. When freedom and free speech are snuffed out, corruption spreads under the cover of darkness.
Power particularly corrupts those who think they deserve it. Free speech and the open society are what will enable us stand up to autocrats and despots.
This week Julius Malema has been charged with money laundering. We welcome the law taking its due course. But the question everyone is asking is: why now? Questions around his tenders and political deals have been asked for many, many years. Why is it suddenly urgent to prosecute now?
The answer is simple. He would not have been brought to book if he was still in President Zuma’s inner circle. Only time will tell if Mr Malema will be able to stall and frustrate the legal process like Mr Zuma did before he became President. We will probably only know after the ANC's Mangaung conference whether he will succeed. But I predict that if Mr Zuma loses, Malema will expect this legal battle to magically disappear.
This is how the ANC of today operates.
Just look at the papers if you want the proof. The Mail & Guardian today has reported that two state bodies, the IDC and PIC, have played a key role in assisting Coral Lagoon, a fundraising consortium for the ANC, with clinching a 1 billion rand deal with Capitec Bank. It is alleged that Lotto boss, Zwelinzima Nzama; the Deputy President's partner, Gugu Mtshali, and Pilisiwe Twala-Tau, the wife of Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau, are all set to benefit.
This is yet another example of the ANC abusing state resources to enrich friends and comrades at the expense of the millions of South Africans who continue to live in the indignity of poverty. We must fight the cancer of corruption with every tool at our disposal before it becomes a way of life in our country.
I have therefore requested today that the Public Protector, Adv. Thuli Mandonsela, investigate this agreement.
As long as there are South Africans who love the Constitution, we will fight against the ANC’s corruption. As long as there are South Africans who love our country and understand, as we do, that we are stronger together, we will defeat those who put personal enrichment above the needs of our people.
But friends, this is the very reason the ANC wants the Secrecy Bill passed. It would hide the truth about the scale of corruption in our national life. It allows for the Zumas and Malemas of this world to hang on to power for their own enrichment, at the expense of the millions of poor, unemployed South Africans who have nothing.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We must resolve to keep the lamps of freedom burning through the night.
So to friends and opponents alike, let us remember at this important gathering: our first duty to freedom is to keep our own and defend the freedoms of others. And we will. This is what the ANC of the past fought so hard for. The ANC of today has decided to abandon these values, but we will not. We will continue to fight for the South Africa that was dreamed of in 1994, because we speak for all those South Africans who love the Constitution, who love one another, and who love our country.
The parties represented here today have fought the passage of a Bill that will silence whistleblowers from the beginning. We have worked day and night in Parliament to fix this law so that it will protect the people of our country from corruption, not put them in jail for exposing it. And we commit ourselves once more to fighting those who want to silence our democracy.
People in the ANC who know the Bill is wrong have let South Africa down. So have many of COSATU’s parliamentarians.
We know already that 34 COSATU-deployed Members of Parliament hypocritically supported the Bill, despite declaring their opposition to it. Senior COSATU members like Mildred Oliphant and Ebrahim Patel voted yes on Black Tuesday. Of course, Zwelinzima Vavi says nothing about this – while parading as a champion of the fight against the Secrecy Bill.
Because this is not politics-as-usual, we will continue to appeal to those members of the ANC who know in their hearts and minds that this Bill is a threat to South Africans who stand for freedom, to stand with us. Two of them were hauled before the ANC’s disciplinary committee for doing the right thing. We honour their bravery today.
We appeal to COSATU to end their two-faced approach, and get their members in Parliament to do the right thing.
We have taken the fight to the National Council of Provinces, where we have proposed amendments to fix this Bill, including a clause to protect those who disclose state information in the public interest.
Our amendments to the Bill were widely applauded, and it looked for a brief period of time that even the ANC was supporting them. But they have backtracked on most of the key amendments.
As it stands, the Bill remains unconstitutional. We will therefore maintain our position that if the Bill is passed into law in its current form, we will use Section 79 to petition the President to refer it back to Parliament.
If that fails I will invoke Section 80 of the Constitution and lead a petition of opposition parties to the Constitutional Court to prevent this law from being passed unchanged. We can achieve this if all political parties represented here are united, as we are today. I have already met with most opposition party leaders in Parliament, and they have all said that they will support such a referral. The message to the ANC is clear: you can be stopped, and you will be stopped.
Today we reaffirm our commitment as an opposition to shine a bright light whenever, and wherever, corruption is manifest.
It is clear to all that our stand against the Secrecy Bill and corruption are one and the same.
We will prevail because the South African people, and the Constitution, are on our side.
I thank you.