SPEECH BY DR MICHAEL CARDO MP, DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE SHADOW MINISTER OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN HUMAN RIGHTS DEBATE, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, 15 March 2016
Cecil Burgess not fit to uphold human rights as Inspector General of Intelligence
Tomorrow, the ANC will try to railroad through this chamber – for a second time – the appointment of its former MP, Cecil Burgess, as Inspector General (IG) of Intelligence.
This is the man who championed the so-called “Secrecy Bill” – a pernicious piece of legislation denounced at the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
The Secrecy Bill wields a sword against individual freedoms and puts up a shield to protect the state from scrutiny.
It is an attack on constitutional democracy. It is an assault on human rights.
And now we, as members of this august House, will be asked to entrust the Bill’s most ardent advocate with oversight of the country’s crime intelligence-, defence intelligence- and state security authorities.
It is, quite frankly, a preposterous proposition.
You would be hard-pressed, studying his record, to find a less suitable candidate for the task than Cecil Burgess.
In fact, appointing Cecil Burgess as Inspector General of Intelligence would be like putting Herod in charge of the maternity ward at Chris Hani Baragwanath.
It will not produce a good story to tell.
But such is the story of human rights in South Africa.
Our institutional human rights architecture is among the finest in the world, admired far and wide. The bastion is our Constitution. Its pillars are the Chapter 9 institutions supporting constitutional democracy. And the cornerstone is our Bill of Rights.
But, under this government, the edifice of human rights has become a house of cards. The foundations have been eroded and weakened:
- By state capture;
- By the ANC’s endless factional wars that play themselves out in state institutions like the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks;
- And by a crippling policy of cadre deployment that sees supine, executive-minded, recycled ruling party hacks like Cecil Burgess dumped into positions of power for which they are ill-suited.
They are meant to be independent and impartial, but instead they do the ANC’s bidding.
The result has been a prolonged onslaught over two decades on the institutions that underpin – and values that infuse – our human rights culture: values of freedom, fairness and opportunity.
Don’t take my word for it. Take our Finance Minister’s.
On Sunday, after the latest bout of unseemly leaking in the ANC’s internecine battle for the soul of the state, he accused the Hawks of using “harassment and intimidatory tactics like the old Security Police did”.
Things have come to a pretty pass when a man of Pravin Gordhan’s stature compares our top crime-fighting unit to the very worst violators of human rights under apartheid.
But what of the supporting pillars in our human rights edifice, the Chapter 9 institutions?
Just about the only decent Public Protector we’ve ever had is the current one, Advocate Thuli Madonsela. Yet she is vilified by the Members opposite because, unlike her predecessors who turned a blind eye to Sarafinagate, Oilgate, Arms Deal-gate (and every other gate the ANC has manufactured), she won’t cover up for the ruling party.
As for the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, has anybody outside of this House ever heard of it?
The Commission formerly known as the Independent Electoral Commission? We shall have to see how, after a litany of recent scandals, it performs under the stewardship of President Zuma’s bosom buddy, Glen Mashinini.
And the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE)?
Well, the CGE is where the superannuated matrons of the ANC Women’s League go to feather their retirement nests.
When they grow tired of chasing ambulances and making noises on the sidelines of high profile court cases, the CGE provides a soft landing.
It’s where they go to put their collective head in the sand every time President Zuma makes one of his many embarrassing patriarchal, sexist, misogynistic remarks.
Last week, the South African Human Rights Commission (the SAHRC) released a damning report on the state of human rights. It fingered the ANC government as one of the biggest culprits.
The SAHRC noted how, last year‚ the government overrode a decision of a High Court‚ as well as a request of a judge of the International Criminal Court‚ to arrest Sudanese President‚ Omar Al-Bashir.
The Human Rights Commission concluded: “These occurrences are worrying for a human rights institution seeking to promote the domestic harmonisation of international laws and standards in South Africa”.
In its report, the SAHRC also expressed “extreme concern” with increasingly high levels of xenophobic violence, violence against women‚ and violence against those protesting government service delivery failures.
If one were to make a detailed study post-1996 of how the ANC had respected, protected, promoted and fulfilled every right in the Bill of Rights, it would make for disconcerting reading.
Traditional first generation “blue rights”, like property rights and the right to freedom of expression, are under threat from the Expropriation Bill, the securitisation of the state, and a broadcaster that believes it serves the state, not the public.
And a host of second generation “red rights” conducive to social justice – such as the right of access to adequate housing, health care and basic education, including further education – are imperiled.
They are undermined by the ANC’s crushing failure to unstitch the structural legacy of apartheid and create the conditions for a fair society based on freedom and opportunity.
The time has come to take a stand against the ANC’s woeful record on human rights.
And we can start tomorrow by rejecting the appointment of Cecil Burgess as Inspector General of Intelligence.