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South Africa’s Zuma Says Secrecy Law Isn’t Constitutional

South African President Jacob Zuma said a law to protect state secrets that Parliament approved in April doesn’t comply with the Constitution and needs to be redrafted.

The Protection of State Information Bill proposes making it a criminal offense for members of the public to disclose classified state information, even if it’s in the public interest to do so. Opposition parties, civil rights groups, labor unions and media companies have opposed the law, saying it may curb free speech and stifle efforts to expose corruption.

“I am of the view that the bill as it stands does not pass constitutional muster,” Zuma told reporters in Cape Town today. “I have referred the Bill to the National Assembly for reconsideration.”

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele had argued that the law was needed to combat espionage and information-peddling and denied that its provisions were unconstitutional.

Zuma also criticized some parts of the bill for lacking meaning and coherence. A stipulation that the National Director of Public Prosecutions had to give written authority to prosecute or investigate any offense committed under the law that carried a penalty of imprisonment of five years was problematic, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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