The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) on Wednesday demanded that government shed light on proposed draft regulations for a state of emergency following media reports.
R2K announced in a press statement that it submitted information requests in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the SAPS and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).
News24 sister publication Rapport reported on Sunday that the Presidency appointed a task team to compile the draft regulations. However, the Presidency on Tuesday denied its involvement in any draft regulations on the matter.
News24 reported on Tuesday that it had seen documents from the SANDF's defence legal services division on the arrangements for a workshop on draft regulations to be used in the case of a state of emergency, including a document with draft regulations.
The Constitution and the State of Emergency Act prescribe the power to proclaim a state of emergency, with the accompanying regulations, to the president.
"R2K is outraged to see confirmation that a government task team has been working in secret to draft new state of emergency regulations – effectively to create preconditions for a future clampdown on public life in South Africa," reads the organisation's statement.
Regulations would 'suspend political rights'
"There is no such thing as a 'good' state of emergency. But the draft regulations that are circulating are especially draconian."
R2K highlighted the following draft regulations: A gag on "disruptive statements" – any statement which incites people to protest or take part in civil disobedience, or which promotes "feelings of hostility" towards any person, the government or the security services;Provisions to effect an internet shutdown by switching off cyber and phone networks;Empowering members of the security services to arrest or search any person if their presence or conduct "may endanger the safety of the public or the restoration or maintenance of peace and order".
"In other words, under a state of emergency, these regulations would suspend almost all political rights for people across South Africa," reads R2K's statement.
"The fact that these regulations have been drafted in secret, and to date no government bodies have owned up to their role, is especially outrageous."
Call for immediate scrapping of proposed legislation
"All of this suggests a ruling elite that fears its people; the securocrats in the state have shown that they are increasingly willing to resort to coercion and closing down the space for open dialogue and expression."
R2K said its PAIA requests were for records of deliberations on draft state of emergency regulations, including minutes of meetings and the draft regulations in their current form.
"R2K will continue its work to push back against securocrats tightening their hold on power. We will remain steadfastly opposed to any attempt to corrode our public sphere with bully tactics disguised as law enforcement."
The organisation called for the regulations "in any shape and form to be scrapped and abandoned immediately".
"This country's real emergencies are to be found in unlit streets where women fear to walk, in classrooms where the education system is failing our children, and in crowded settlements where land and housing and decent jobs remain elusive to millions of people.
"If the government cares for its people, these are the crises it must attend to," R2K said.