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AfriForum submits comments opposing Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Amendment Bill

The civil rights organisation AfriForum has submitted a written comment to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police opposing the proposed Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Amendment Bill.

AfriForum does not support the passing of the Bill in its current form. AfriForum welcomes an updating of the Act insofar as it seeks to bring it in line with developments in international law and Constitutional Court judgments. AfriForum does not support those amendments which intend to expand the state’s police powers “to address challenges experienced with conducting investigations and prosecutions”. These provisions are doomed to legal review, scrutiny and a slew of litigation should they be passed.

The provisions, which intend to grant greater powers to the police, infringe unfairly on many fundamental rights including the rights to freedom of expression and association; political freedom, right to privacy; to freedom of conscience; access to information, etc. There is no single internationally agreed upon definition of “terrorism”. The Amendment makes the definition of “terrorist activity” much too wide. The wide definition is problematic because it would enable the state to criminalise normal citizens supporting one side of a controversial topic, or those who criticise or challenge the government’s policies or legislation, as “encouragement” or “indirect” facilitation of terrorism.

Real life case studies have been included in AfriForum’s comments to show that the actual problem is not insufficient legislation, but effective implementation of the existing legislation. Examples have also been included of how the amendment may be misused to suppress viewpoints which the state does not endorse or support.

“In its current form this Bill opens the door for widespread abuse to silence and imprison critics of the government or its policies. We do not have to look far for examples. In 2022 it was reported that internal emails within the Department of Health described groups opposed to government’s proposed health regulations as ‘instigating terrorism’ and ‘sabotage’. This is a clear indication of how this bill could potentially be used to criminalise normal citizens,” says Ernst van Zyl, Campaign Officer for Strategy and Content at AfriForum.

“Further legislative provisions which grant greater power to the police and the state are unnecessary. The existing legal framework is sufficient. The problem is implementation and execution by state organs in the face of widespread lack of sufficient resources, corruption, mismanagement and cadre deployment,” van Zyl concludes.

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