12 November 2004

South Africa: National Assembly Passes Terrorism Bill

Cape Town — The National Assembly today unanimously passed the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Bill.

Once enacted, it will provide for measures to prevent and combat terrorist and related activities and give effect to international instruments dealing with terrorism.

Speaking in Parliament earlier today, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said the Bill represented South Africa's constitutional democracy.

He allayed fears that the Bill would interfere with individuals' constitutional rights.

"The nature and context of the bill viewed against the backdrop of our country's history was enough reason to be cautious and to expect some form of vigilance from our people of what should be contained in the Bill," he explained.

The minister added the draft law would provide the necessary tools for law enforcement and protect democratic values and principles.

He added that the inclusive drafting process was not easy in light of the country's apartheid past.

"The concerns raised on the Bill ranged from objections against its name, initially referred to as the Anti-Terrorist Bill to some political and religious concerns.

"The labour federation Cosatu was worried that the bill could interfere with the exercise of constitutional rights related to industrial action and there was also concern from the media that it could suppress their freedom," said minister Nqakula.

Minister Nqakula told Parliament that government had done everything possible to address all reasonable concerns in this regard.

He added that it would enable South Africa to comply with international and national obligations in combating of terrorism.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the Bill during the sitting in Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, last week.

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