House of Assembly: Vol47 - FRIDAY 22 FEBRUARY 1974
Mr. Chairman, the provision in this clause again seeks to extend the preferential rights of the State in cases of insolvency. This preferential right for the State is embodied in the principal Insolvency Act in respect of certain claims, but we on this side of the House have from time to time said that this is a right which must be very carefully considered before the State is granted absolute preference over other claimants in an insolvent estate. Sir, I say this because in the majority of insolvencies or company liquidations, there are amounts outstanding, whether they be large or small, in respect of wages and salaries to employees of an insolvent person or a liquidated company. We are finding now that with the increase in the preferential rights for which the State asks under the Insolvency Act, the claim of the employee for wages is being jeopardized more and more. We raised this matter last year when a similar provision was included in the General Law Amendment Act, and this year again we find that provision is being made for another form of preferential claim by the State. Sir, I believe that this is a matter which should be looked into, and I wonder whether the hon. the Deputy Minister of Justice would not himself have this matter referred to the Law Commission to see to what extent provision can be made so that the claim of the employee for wages at the time of the insolvency is not detrimentally affected by the preferential right which is granted here in favour of the State. We keep on complaining about this, but nothing is done to rectify the matter and further preferential rights in favour of the State continue to be introduced under the General Law Amendment Act. I think the time has come for this matter to be referred to the Law Commission and for some protection of the nature to which I have referred to be enshrined in the Insolvency Act in so far as insolvent individuals and liquidated companies are concerned.
Sir, I appreciate the concern of the hon. member for Green Point about the moneys which employees can claim from an insolvent estate. But in this specific case I am of the opinion that these funds must fall under section 99 of the Act. The reason for that is that this money is, in fact, money that is being given for national supplies, i.e. for security purposes. From the nature of the case, these are trust moneys. Those moneys are made available to firms, and of course cannot be used by the firms for any purpose except the specific one which the State has laid down. If those firms were to become insolvent, this must be regarded as trust money that has been paid into the insolvent estate. All trust moneys of the State, as you know, Sir, fall under section 99, and it is essential to get that money back. The hon. member for Green Point is concerned about the fact that the State’s claim has precedence over the claims of salary and wage workers, but the hon. member must not forget that the wage claims of workers really have nothing to do with this money; these are not operating funds; this is not money obtained to pay the wages and salaries of workers; it is purely a trust fund for the purchasing of State supplies in terms of the National Supplies Procurement Act.
Sir, the reply of the hon. the Deputy Minister strengthens my complaint. I am sure he is not going to adopt the attitude that where the Government itself or its agency is so unwise as to leave money in the hands of a firm which goes into liquidation, the State should be protected against the very persons who are employed to do the job for which this money is made available to the firm. Sir, it shows a completely wrong approach, because every loan to a company or to an individual, if it is given for a specific purpose, must then be regarded as trust money, which is a ridiculous approach. The State provides funds for a certain job to be done for the State and the firm then goes insolvent and the State says, “We must now have a preferential claim.” Sir, I can only hope that the hon. the Deputy Minister will at least have this matter referred to the Law Commission for review to see whether they can meet the position as far as the claims of workers for wages and salaries are concerned.
I fear the hon. member for Green Point is under the wrong impression. This is not simply money which the State loans to public companies. It is public money which is employed for national security and the purchase of supplies in terms of the National Supplies Procurement Act. The State cannot supply all the storage it needs for national supplies for its security. This public money is employed for a specific purpose, for the benefit of the country and for everyone’s benefit, including the workers. One surely cannot expect that this money should be absorbed in an insolvency. These are public trust moneys and they must consequently have preference over any of the other claims. I fear I cannot help the hon. member with this.
Clause agreed to.
I am standing up to make a few remarks about the changes contained in this clause. The amendment contained in clause 13 was initiated in the Marico constituency. It is the consequence of serious financial problems experienced by one of our most important diamond fissure mines, which was proclaimed an alluvial digging, i.e. the Helam diamond mine at Swartruggens. As a result of the increasing production costs and the effect of the export tax on industrial diamonds, it has become virtually impossible for the company to continue its activities on an economic basis. Through my personal intercession and assistance, interviews were conducted with the hon. the Ministers of Mining and Finance, and there were requests that import tax relief be given to this mine. It was found that this would be impossible, and that amendment to the act would have to be introduced. The reaction was favourable, and the result is this important amendment now contained in clause 13. I should like to express my thanks for that to the bodies concerned.
If you would permit me a few remarks, Sir, the amendment means, in a nutshell, that diamond fissure diggings that have been proclaimed alluvial diggings can now also obtain remission of export tax on diamonds, which was not the case previously. This relates to industrial diamonds for which no local market exists in South Africa. This amendment entails the relative company now being placed on an equal footing with Jagersfontein, which is the only other diamond mine which has already obtained remission on export diamonds. The export tax on industrial diamonds is a considerable amount. It is calculated at 15% of the actual value of the diamonds and it could make a marginal profit diamond mine a completely unprofitable undertaking, as was the case here at Swartruggens too. The Helam mine, for example, suffered an overall loss of R85 118 during the last six months of 1973 alone, R63 750 of which was export tax. The fact that as a proclaimed fissure digging they can now also make use of remission, provided the Minister can be convinced in terms of the provisions of clause 13 that as a result of unfavourable economic conditions they can no longer develop the mine profitably, will now also mean a great deal to them in future. For Swartruggens, the town and the district, which leans heavily on the economic significance of an active mine like Helam, up against their urban boundaries, the Sword of Damocles is now being removed. If the concession had not been made in time, the mine would probably have had to stop its activities, with serious consequences to the town and the district of Swartruggens.
That is why I have stood up to say that I welcome this amendment. It will also be of great benefit to similar companies in the future, which will be able to lay claim to remission of export tax on industrial diamonds as a result of the amendment. That the Helam case was a serious one can be proved by quoting a single passage from a telegram which I received only yesterday from the mine manager, in which he states, inter alia—
If this amendment could then neutralise the “beyond the point of recovery” completely, you can understand how much this could mean to Swartruggens.
Clause agreed to.
I just want to say a few words in connection with this clause. This clause and this provision is a recognition on the part of the Government of the efforts which the Bar itself employs to strengthen its own ranks. We in South Africa have an independent judiciary which is fed by the Bar, and the General Bar Council has made efforts of late to improve the quality of the advocacy and of the Bar and to facilitate membership of the Bar for the profession of advocates. For that reason the Government has responded to the representations to introduce this clause. I want to express the hope that the Bar will in future develop and strengthen itself further, and I also want to give the assurance that everything will be done in future on the part of the Government to strongly develop the Bar, because this is the basis and foundation of the independent judiciary we have in South Africa.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 18 negatived.
Clause 19 negatived.
This is a very interesting clause and if one can believe what one reads in the Press, particularly in the Sunday Times, it would appear that the Receiver of Revenue paid R681 790-16 somewhat prematurely to persons who would eventually have become entitled to receive the repayment of their loan levy plus interest. The reason given for this somewhat premature payment was that it was the fault of the computer. The hon. the Deputy Minister shakes his head, indicating that it was not the fault of the computer. I am only saying what the Press said, that it was the fault of the computer. It is very interesting that in many cases where something goes awry the poor computer is blamed. You know, Sir, the computer is the most foolish of all instruments because the computer can only do what the human brain tells it to do. It has no brain of its own and it cannot act on its own. So one must not always blame the computer. But irrespective of the reasons, there are certain serious questions which I believe have to be answered. These cheques were sent out to a number of people, I understand. I would like to know from the hon. the Deputy Minister when he replies how many people were involved. Secondly, how was it possible that these cheques came to be signed? Were the cheques not checked before they were given to the person responsible for signing them? [Interjections.] Yes, I know a computer can sign cheques and in most cases the computer does sign cheques, but you have to feed the signature into the computer. If that signature was left in the computer, just to be used every day, then there is something wrong with that because the signature should be controlled. Whereas the cheques might be set up in terms of the computers’ instructions, the signature which the computer puts on those cheques has to be controlled. How did these cheques come to be posted? Here were a lot of cheques simply made out and distributed to a number of people. How did that happen? The most important aspect, because we realists do not like jobbing backwards, is what steps have been taken to ensure that there will be no repetition of a situation as is reflected in this clause in terms of which Parliament is now being asked to condone what has happened.
Mr. Chairman, I shall readily give the information at my disposal to the hon. member. In the first place I want to say that in terms of paragraph 6 of the Fifth Schedule of the Income Tax Act, 1962, the loan levies on taxes are repaid after a specific period. The period after which such repayment is made, is determined by the Minister of Finance, as the hon. member knows. In the case under discussion it is correct that cheques were wrongly dispatched to various taxpayers normally entitled to the repayment of levies, but only after the advent of the specific date. In all fairness, this fault did not develop as a result of the computer having made a mistake, but in fact as a result of a programming error. 5 206 people were involved, and the relevant amount is R681 790.
And 16 cents.
Yes, the amount is R681 790-16. I did not know the hon. member would be that much interested in an amount of 16c. [Interjections.] This amount is made up as follows: R538 940 as capital and R142 850-16 as interest. When the cheques were dispatched the Minister had not yet fixed the date for the repayment of the levy plus interest.
Had the election date not yet been fixed at that stage?
I am dealing with a technical subject and therefore do not feel inclined to play in a farce with the hon. member. Since the Minister of Finance had not, at that stage, fixed the date of repayment of the loan levy plus interest and the payments could therefore not be made valid, and since there was no other way to put the matter right, it is necessary for the amendment to be introduced here. I want to point out at once that at this stage I unfortunately cannot answer the hon. member’s question in respect of the signing of the cheques. I would have to speculate if I were to answer now, and I do not think such a thing is fair to the hon. member. I am quite prepared to establish the facts and to give them to him. I think he will accept this from me in this light. I was not aware that this specific aspect would come up, but I personally undertake to post that information to him.
In conclusion, it has been asked what steps have been taken to prevent a repetition of such occurrences. I want to tell the hon. member—he will understand this—that if one looks at the total volume of money and the large number of cheques handled within the State sector, one must realize that, as in the case of us all, there are still human factors that cannot always be eliminated. Having now said this, I am not seeking to excuse this mistake in the sense that it is excusable. Steps taken to ensure that a repetition does not take place, are naturally just the ordinary control steps one would take when mistakes of this nature occur. Therefore I cannot take this aspect any further, except to repeat that I will send the hon. member the information which I do not have available to me now.
Mr. Chairman, I do not want to make an issue of this because an error has been made and we who have had a reasonable amount of business experience know that errors can be made. It is true. But on the other hand I think the hon. the Deputy Minister should have come here armed with the information as to why the error was made. I think the hon. the Deputy Minister should have come to the House quite obviously with the reason why the error was made and what steps will be taken to cure that error. The hon. the Minister said the error took place in the programming. This raises a lot of questions on the use of the computer, such as whether the programmes are being adequately checked before they are used in the computer, because once the programme is in the computer, it is the end of the story. That is where the human element disappears and the computer takes over, because the programme is the instructions which you feed to the computer. Afterwards the donkey, the computer, simply carries out your instructions whether they are good instructions or bad instructions. I shall look forward to receiving from the hon. the Deputy Minister the answers to some of the questions which I have placed on record.
Mr. Chairman, while we accept the hon. the Deputy Minister’s explanation so far as it goes, it does seem to raise another rather disquieting aspect. As we understand it, the computer correctly calculated the amount of the loan levy repayable. It was programmed to do so and presumably it did its addition and multiplication correctly. However, what was lacking in the programme was an indication of the date on which these levies should be repaid. According to the hon. the Deputy Minister, this was a policy decision the Minister of Finance had not yet taken. The conclusion we must draw from this is that the computer then took this policy decision. [Interjections.] I am quite serious. In the absence of a decision on the date of repayment by the Minister of Finance, the computer got tired of waiting and, having grown impatient, the computer itself took that decision. It said to itself, that is if computers say to themselves: “I shall not wait any longer for a decision by the Minister of Finance; I shall take this decision.” It fixed a date, its own date, because it had to have a date in order to calculate the interest; and having done so, it calculated the interest, signed the cheques and gave instructions to somebody to post the cheques. If this is going on in the Ministry of Finance, we should like to know what other policies this computer is making. If all this can take place, if this computer can do all these things, we would like to know whether it might not be taking other policy decisions in regard to, shall we say, inflation, or in regard to interest rates. If that hon. Deputy Minister or the hon. the Minister do not take the decisions themselves, quite clearly this computer is capable of doing so on their behalf. We would like an assurance from the hon. the Deputy Minister as to whether or not this computer is in charge of policy, because by his own explanation it is the computer that takes these policy decisions and not the Minister. Can we have that assurance from the hon. the Deputy Minister?
Mr. Chairman, let me say immediately that I think the observations which have been made by the hon. member for Von Brandis are completely farcical. [Interjections.] I may suggest to him that if they had a computer that could take decisions for them they would not have so many different interpretations as to what their policy means.
*I just want to reply to the hon. member for Parktown, because I think his question was at least seriously intended. The hon. member is aware that the loan levies for 1968 would normally be repayable during this year. The hon. member also knows that the 1967 loan levy has already been repaid. The programming error I spoke of a while ago occurred in the month after the month in which the calculation of the 1967 loan levies were made. That is the basic explanation for the mistake that crept in here. Everything that happened here took place in the month after the general discharge of the 1967 loan levy. There is not the slightest doubt that it occurred as a result of a mistake that cropped up specifically because no date had been fixed by the hon. the Minister. Did the hon. member not listen to the Budget speech of the hon. the Minister of Finance? After all, he indicated in his speech that these amounts for 1968 are being repaid.
Up to what date was the interest calculated?
The interest was calculated on the effective date of repayment. I can explain to hon. members, but I cannot give them the intelligence to understand, because I have no control over that. The decisions appearing in the hon. the Minister of Finance’s Budget proposals are surely not taken on the day they are introduced here. That decision is normally taken prior to that, surely, on various dates and at various times. It is, after all, a continuous process. I say at once that we shall take steps to prevent a repetition of this. The mistake occurred because they were dealing with the 1967 payments of loan levies and the interest connected with it. In respect of the other question about the signing of the cheques, I repeat my undertaking to the hon. member for Parktown.
Mr. Chairman, this is getting more confused. The hon. the Deputy Minister said that the Minister had fixed a date. Now he tells us that the date on which the cheques were incorrectly sent out was the corresponding date of the previous year for the sending out of the 1967 loan levy repayments.
I did not say that.
Yes, the hon. the Deputy Minister said that the 1967 repayments were made on the corresponding date.
I did not say that.
That is what we heard you say: “Dit was die datum waarop die 1967-terugbetalings gemaak is.” Let that be so or not, we find now that a different date is fixed for the 1968 loan levies, but a date is fixed. But the next time the hon. the Deputy Minister speaks he says this is a continuing process. Now, is this a fixed date or a continuing process? What I want to know is why should the date for this year differ from the previous year and why should it have been brought forward to just before the election? Is there a correlation between the date of payment and the date of the election? If there is not, there is a very strange odour floating around the date that was fixed.
Mr. Chairman, if the hon. member wants to speak about this subject with any comprehension, I think he must firstly listen to the answers I give. I said that the decisions eventually embodied in the Budget proposals of the hon. the Minister of Finance are not all taken simultaneously. I said that decisions about matters which the Budget speech is involved with, are a continuous process. That is so, after all. Various departments come along with their Budget needs and tell us what their expected figures will be. That differs from time to time. All I said—and this bears no relation whatsoever to what the hon. member just said—is that the decisions in respect of the Budget proposals are generally a continuous process. This has nothing to do with this specific point. What I said in this specific connection is that the repayment of loan levies takes place after the Minister has fixed “a” date. In this specific case, as a result of a programming error, payments to 5 260 people took place before the Minister had fixed a date. The purpose of this legislation is specifically to authorize the mistake that was made here. What I did say was that this programming error took place, as a result of the information fed to the computer, as the hon. member for Parktown quite rightly said, in the month after that in which the 1967 payments took place. It goes without saying that the hon. member for Durban Point’s question about whether there is not a political odour attached to this, is irrelevant. When all is said and done we would, in any case, have been able to propose in the Budget speech of the hon. the Minister of Finance that the relevant loan levy plus interest be repaid. I frequently agree with hon. members opposite in respect of specific standpoints, and in all fairness I want to point out that we would generally like to stimulate growth and give it greater momentum. The other day, in his own speech, the hon. member for Parktown launched a plea for the reduction of company tax so that there could be an accumulation of funds in company accounts that would enable them to undertake capacity extensions. When steps are now taken here to pay back to these people an amount of R105 million—I think that is the figure—the largest part of which is, from a percentage point of view, repayments to companies, we are at least achieving the objective he advocates, even though we do not achieve the same quantity as that which he requested. No politics is therefore involved in this specific aspect.
Mr. Chairman, may I just ask the hon. the Deputy Minister one question to get some clarity. Was the interest, which was paid in respect of these premature payments, calculated up to the date of payment or to the date up to which the interest would have accrued if it had been paid on the correct date?
My answer to that question is that the interest which was in fact paid, was calculated up to the date of the actual payment and not up to the projected date for the repayment as determined in the Budget.
Clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker on the Opposition side was the hon. member for Florida. We listened to his speech and tried to find something in it; but one got the impression that he had received instructions to speak for a half hour, and those instructions he carried out. For the most part he repeated arguments which had already been stated by the hon. member for Durban North, and he therefore contributed very little that was original to the arguments which had already been submitted to the House. He combined this with his typical—we have already become accustomed to this from the hon. member—thoughtless arrogance. Inter alia, he remarked that he would give an hon. member on this side of the House a lecture in his office. May I suggest to him that after the next election he will have considerable time to give himself lectures in his office, for I do not think he will return to this House. Then he repeated the remark which had been made by the hon. member for Durban North, i.e. that we are dealing here with an old concept and with a new concept at the same time, and that it was impossible to reconcile the two. I do not find it strange that they think in terms of such concepts. If one observes what is happening these days within the United Party one can understand a young member such as he, still a member of the Old Guard, having to make noises acceptable to the ears of the middle-aged Turks. What other reason was there for the actions of both the hon. member for Durban North and the hon. member for Florida, than that they are forced to make certain placatory noises here for the ears of the Schwarz group and their supporters among the students? This legislation is the result of the experience we acquired with student disturbances in the past, and they know that this is based on that experience. They know that in this debate they now have to outbid the hon. member for Houghton for the sympathy of the students in this situation. Consequently they were forced to make these noises, although quite probably they feel in their heart of hearts that the National Party and the Government of the day is taking the correct steps in streamlining the Act.
The hon. member for Florida tried to paint a picture here of innocent students being molested on their own territory by the authorities. He called out asking whether we were opposed to protest. We are certainly not opposed to protest. The National Party is in fact the bearer of protest in this country. The National Party was born out of protest. The National Party’s history dates from the days when we protested against British tyranny and domination in this country. It is we who protested for “South Africa first” in the years 1914 and afterwards. It is we who protested for a flag, national anthem and Republic of our own, when those members did not believe in protest. This is a party which believes in protest and in participation in protest against any injustice that may exist. It is always a party which will protest for the maintenance of White identity and sovereignty. It is a party of protest, and we are also protesting against the concept of extra-parliamentary action by minority groups that want to try to enforce their will on a community by means of provocative demonstrations. It is this kind of situation which this Bill seeks to get to grips with. I am convinced that the Government will have the courage of its convictions to do what is right and what is in the interests of South Africa. We believe in protest, certainly—that is my reply to the hon. member for Florida—but then we believe in orderly protest, within the framework of the Act, by way of discipline and single-minded action, and not by way of a defiance of authority. The United Party, on the other hand, as it now seems to me, believes that the protest which must take place under their protection may simple lead to disruption of authority and to social changes of such magnitude that it could only have one consequence, and that is tension between communities in South Africa. These protesting groups have radical objectives in mind and it is these radical objectives which a wing of the United Party would very much like to take under its protection. The United Party knows that it has to make certain noises to accommodate those radical elements, or it is going to lose a very large number of its supporters, particularly of its young supporters, to the Progressive Party. These are the kind of noises which the “Turkish” half of the United Party always wanted to make, the “Turkish” half that want to harbour the progressive element among their number. They are the people who run away with things, and in the process even want to fly to the moon. I believe there are other elements in the United Party that wish they had flown to the moon. In contrast to that the National Party has always had an understanding of the situation as it applies from time to time in South Africa, as well as a realistic approach to the circumstances obtaining in a particular period. The National Party has always been prepared to effect any changes which are necessary. The National Party has always been a party of change, but a party of change in an orderly and ordered way, with discipline. This is what this Bill contemplates. Here we again have a situation where we want to make certain adjustments to an existing Act to make provision in this way for orderly change in legislation as well. We encountered certain problems with the application of the Act as it stands, and these problems were very well enunciated in the case of Turrell and Others v. the State. It is recorded in Prentice-Hall (1) of 1973, and we shall glance at this in a moment. These problems which we encountered in that particular decision are problems which the Government has considered and in respect of which the Government has adopted the standpoint as embodied in the legislation here before us. But what did we have in respect of these problems from the United Party? What did we have from them in regard to the application of the existing Act? Except for one minor concession from the hon. member for Durban North, absolutely nothing. The hon. member told us that the Act had been good for 50 years. Why should we change it now? Well, for 100 years we travelled by oxwagon, and why did we change that practice? That is the position. It is a question of a lack of will to adjustment on the part of that side of the House. The concession the hon. member for Durban North was prepared to make was that certain student groups that were in fact standing on private property and who were visible from a public site could be restrained. That is the only concession, the only amendment of which the hon. member for Durban North is in favour, and in respect of which the United Party adopted any standpoint. As far as I understood him, he is opposed to all the other provisions of this legislation. He therefore made no suggestions in regard to how we may overcome these problems which have arisen as a result of this decision in the case of Turrell and Others v. the State. They attack which they made was merely on the grounds of the fact that the definition of a public place, that the riotous circumstances have to take place in a public place as provided in the existing Act, has now fallen away. That is the basis of the attack launched by both the hon. member for Durban North and the hon. member for Florida. Here I have the decision in this specific case, and I quote from the summary of the first point (translation)—
That was the decision in this specific case. The magistrate tried in this case to prohibit gatherings which were to take place within a certain period here in Cape Town. He stipulated that all gatherings from a certain time to a certain time would be prohibited, and because the existing section 2(1) of the Act reads as it does at present, the court found that the magistrate acted ultra vires—beyond powers—in determining the specific prohibition. We heard from the hon. the Deputy Minister and from the previous speaker on the Government’s side, the hon. member for Potchefstroom, what problems there are in handling this particular situation. One does not know precisely where the meeting is going to be held; the venue of the meeting is changed from time to time; the objects of the meeting are changed from time to time. There would have to be a constant following up of the actions of the riotous persons if one had to apply this section as it reads at present, and this leads to a ridiculous situation, because the poor magistrate will now have to be constantly informed of whether the people are going to meet in front of the Cathedral or at some or other public place. He shall constantly have to make new proclamations to cover the particular time and place, in respect of which the meeting is being re-convened.
Will the hon. member tell the House what situation the Government is not able to deal with under the Riotous Assemblies Act as it stands at the moment?
Sir, I was just explaining that to the hon. member, but perhaps he did not follow me correctly. Situations arise where the magistrate in question cannot deal with the circumstances of the case. I was trying to explain that the magistrate is bound, as section 2 reads at the moment, to prohibit a particular meeting only. Where, as is stated in this decision which I have quoted, a magistrate issued a notice purporting to prohibit a class of meetings, the notice was held to be ultra vires and therefore unable to support a conviction. The magistrate, in terms of the law as it now stands, is obliged to prohibit a particular meeting at a particular time and a particular place, and all this may be changed by the parties intending to hold the meeting. They may change their plans from time to time as to the time and the place where the meeting is to be held and then the poor magistrate has to go on prohibiting each successive meeting. The purpose of this amendment is to obviate that sort of nonsense.
*What does the United Party say in respect of this situation? Are they prepared to give the authorities the right to prohibit a particular class of meetings for specified periods so that it will not be necessary to run from meeting to meeting with notices of prohibition? Suppose we were to go so far now as to concede to the hon. member for Durban North his argument on the question of the public place, and I do not think we have any intention whatsoever of doing this, but I am merely stating this for the sake of the argument. Suppose we were to concede the question of the public places now, and we were to say very well, we shall accept that this Act may in future be applicable only to public places. Would he then concede that the Government of the day should have the right to be able to prohibit a whole series of meetings at public places over a period, or should we continue with the Act as it reads at present? He told us nothing about that in his argument.
But I want to go further. You will know that this decision of Turrell and others versus the State embraced the following as well. I quote (translation)—
That is the offence which was committed. Now this Bill seeks to provide that the mere attendance of such a riotous, prohibited gathering will constitute an offence. In that respect the United Party has not yet given us a reply. Do they still adhere to the old Act, or are they prepared to give the authorities this protective measure in terms of which attendance of such a riotous assembly is prohibited? They have not yet adopted a standpoint in this respect. In respect of the question whether six or more warnings should be issued at such a gathering before action is taken by the police, in respect of that, they have not yet adopted a standpoint. The only aspect in regard to which they have adopted a standpoint was the question of the public place, and the fact that this Bill is also applicable to private premises. That is what they have adopted a standpoint in respect of. The requirement which is now being stated in the Bill is that private premises shall also be subject to the application of this legislation. I must say that the hon. member for Durban North weakened his own argument by making the concession that there might after all be circumstances under which the police ought to be able to enter private premises to restrain riotous behaviour. But in this House the hon. member for Durban North and the hon. member for Florida sketched pictures of how, as a result of the application of this legislation, there is going to be interference in innocent gatherings of private persons. He conjured up certain spectres which will be very attractive for certain elements of the English-language Press to bruit abroad, but in the process he tried to analyse the letter of the law and he took the words of the Act and arrived at a certain conclusion. Unfortunately the conclusion he arrived at was an unjustified and absurd one.
But was he wrong on any point?
I ask myself whether the hon. member for Durban North, if he were to appear in a court in his capacity of advocate, as a responsible member of that court, would have advanced the same absurd arguments. But here he acted as an irresponsible member of the Opposition, and consequently he could advance arguments of this absurd kind here. The hon. member for Florida would also like to employ the title of cultured gentleman. I am surprised that he also displayed the ignorance he did. One should not like to apply the title of “uncultured gentleman” to him, because it contains a certain innuendo, a certain adverse meaning, and perhaps we should simply call him the “quasi-cultured gentleman from Florida”. But they made a twofold mistake in regard to the statements they made here. Firstly, they must surely be well aware that a presumption exists in the interpretation of our laws against absurd conclusions. There is such a presumption, and in the second place there is the question of “common purpose” which has an effect on the interpretation of this particular paragraph in respect of which they were arguing. If hon. members have not examined this themselves, I can refer them to L. C. Steyn’s book, Die Uitleg van Wette. I have the third edition of the book at my disposal and on page 114 there is a very definite judgment, supported by references, to the effect that there is a presumption that the legislature intends no absurd consequences. May I also draw their attention to another fact? I am referring to the case of Venter v. Rex as quoted on page 31 of the same book. I am quoting what Mr. Chief Justice Innes stated in his judgment in that case—
This is what the hon. member for Durban North tried to do—
Here they have tried to draw absurd conclusions implying that private gatherings in private homes also fall under the scope of the Bill and that people are no longer even able to assemble for a bridge party. Surely that is not the intention of the Bill. The intention of the Bill is to prohibit riotous assemblies. If there is a riotous assembly on private premises, the Bill will certainly be applicable to it. However, if an innocent bridge party is in progress, it would be far from the interpretation of any court to deem the Bill applicable to that private, innocent bridge party. The hon. member was quite mistaken in the interpretation of the Bill, and I insist that this was done with political motives. Added to that is the fact that the specific provision—I am referring to the new subsection 2(1)—makes mention of any gathering in a district which may be prohibited. The words “any gathering” refer to paragraph (1)(a) of this subsection in which reference is made to “any gathering” in the district. That “any gathering” has a certain specified meaning in terms of the provisions in the Bill. The concept of “common purpose” is applicable to the words “any gathering”. The other gatherings mentioned in the new section 1 are of a specific nature and are not relevant now. The concept of “common purpose” is one of the concepts to which the hon. member referred, but he did not make a proper study of the authority which he himself quoted properly, viz. the case of Dudley v. the Minister of Justice. Nor did he present the case correctly to the House. What were the facts in the case of Dudley v. the Minister of Justice? In that case we were dealing with a university lecturer. The question was put whether that lecturer was in a gathering with his students. The Appeal Court arrived at certain conclusions when the case came before it in 1963—
That is the one leg on which it stands—
That is the other leg on which it stands. The judge then proceeded to give this example—
He then reached a decision on the matter of the classroom and thought that they had in fact been there for a common purpose, and that they were in fact there with the idea of receiving instruction. He concluded—
Even when one is sitting in a classroom listening to the instruction of a single lecturer, there is no common purpose in the specific case. This concept of common purpose is fundamental to the application of this legislation and on this basis the hon. member’s interpretation of the wording of the legislation has to fall away.
There is one more remark to which I have to refer. This remark came from the hon. member for Florida. He asked—
He could just as well have asked whether it is vested in the will of a magistrate to impose certain restrictions, for that is what this legislation is making provision for. I regard the remark of the hon. member as being irresponsible and harmful to the good name of South Africa, for it is this type of newspaper report which is eagerly snatched up by the enemies of South Africa and bruited abroad. They would very much like to disseminate the propaganda abroad that freedom is vested in the will of the Minister of the State. None of the members of the overseas Press know that one could perhaps refer to the hon. member as well, as has been referred to other hon. members on the Opposition side, as a political pipsqueak. They are taken seriously abroad and these words are publicized overseas. I want to tell him that if he had given the matter a little consideration he would have realized that he had made an incorrect statement in this House. The function which is being performed here by the magistrate and the Minister is an administrative one. Since when is an administrative function without control? There are three methods of control. In the first place every administrative function is subject to review by the Supreme Court, whether it is the function of the Minister or whether it is the function of the magistrate. In the second place a specific administrative function can be intra vires or ultra vires, and the court can find it so and accord no legal consequence to it. That is a second method of control. The third and most important point is that the Minister has to account for his actions and the actions of the magistrate across the floor of this House. After all, this control is there; why is he stating it now as though freedom were subject to the will of the Minister? This is freedom subject to the will of the people who are causing this legislation to be passed by the legally elected Parliament. That is what it is.
The National Party has always taken into consideration the situation as it applies in South Africa. It has always made adjustments where it was necessary to make adjustments. The National Party considers the South Africa of today and the South Africa of the future. It considers the industrialization process which is taking place and the urbanization process which is in progress; it considers the growing mass of people which is accumulating in the urban complexes; it takes into consideration the larger concentration of people who have to be handled in an orderly way, and because it does so and because it is aware that steps have to be taken to ensure that these processes occur in an orderly and disciplined manner, the National Party is prepared to accept responsibility for this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I have listened with a great deal of interest to what the hon. member for Bellville had to say.
It was a good speech.
Well, the speech was well argued but it had many flaws in it. I shall tell the hon. member of some of the flaws it had in it. For instance, in his last statement he omitted the most important thing to which the Nationalist Party looked, and that is to keep itself in power. That is the most important objective of the Nationalist Party. The other flaw in the argument he used is that he tells us that the administration of a law such as the one we are discussing now is democratic, because it is under the observation and the jurisdiction of the courts of law and if the law is administered in such a way as to be ultra vires then the court will decide. But that is exactly what happened in the past. The courts did decide that the Riotous Assemblies Act was being administered ultra vires and that is why we are dealing with this Bill today.
Yes, exactly. Now there is democracy. The Government acts ultra vires under existing law, so its way of dealing with the situation is not to accept it and to see that in future the law is administered correctly, but to come back and change the law. Now tell me, where are the beginnings of democracy in that sort of behaviour? Then the hon. member told us that the National Party was a party of protest, and there I agree with him absolutely. It is, or rather was, a party of protest. As we know from the days of Gen. De Wet, as we know from the days of World War II and as we know from many incidents in our history, the National Party is a party of protest. But what it does not recognize is the right of other people to protest. That is another thing this Bill is all about today, viz. the National Government’s absolute determination to see that other people do not have the same right of protest that it has enjoyed over all these years, a right, I might say, which contributed materially to getting it into power. I am not going to deal with anything else the hon. member said, because a lot of it will come up during the course of my own speech. I just want to tell him that I am more worried about the rights of the poor citizens than I am worried about the difficulties experienced by poor magistrates. I say this also to the hon. member for Potchefstroom who last night was so upset about the difficulties encountered by poor magistrates in administering a law that has been on the Statute Book since about 1914.
Last night the hon. member for Durban North said that when the hon. the Deputy Minister read his speech he did it so fast that he had a feeling that the hon. the Deputy Minister wanted to gloss over the contents of the Bill. I cannot say that I got that impression at all. My impression was that the hon. the Deputy Minister was having himself a ball and was thoroughly enjoying the whole performance. He was like a young understudy who suddenly found himself in a position of playing the leading role, which is of course exactly what has happened in this case. He was quite beside himself with pleasure and I want to tell the hon. the Deputy Minister that he has a lot to learn. One of the first things that he has to learn is that it is wrong for him to leak the contents of a Bill to the National Press, or to any other organ of the Press for that matter, before Parliament has had sight of its contents. I want to know how it is that I was telephoned in Johannesburg on Sunday and asked by a newspaper to comment on a report which had appeared both in Die Transvaler and in Die Burger on Saturday morning, and which gave the contents of this Bill almost accurately. The little crystal ball might have clouded here and there, but on the whole it was pretty accurate. I want to know why that happened and why I as a member of Parliament, who after all am going to have to debate the Bill and consider it and decide whether to support it or oppose it, should not have had sight of the Bill. I was given 48 hours to study the Bill, but the Press is given the Bill four days before I get sight of it. I believe that to be an insult to the institution of Parliament. That is one of the things the hon. the Deputy Minister has to learn.
As the hon. member for Potchefstroom and the hon. member for Bellville have so ingenuously admitted, this Bill of course stems from the ignominious failure of the Government to secure any convictions, or very few convictions, against student protesters at both UCT and Witwatersrand University two years ago and last year. In 1972, after disturbances at the beginning of June outside the Cathedral, 58 students were charged under the Riotous Assemblies Act. Ten were convicted, but nine got off on appeal. Then in Johannesburg 61 students were charged under the Riotous Assemblies Act and of the 56 that were prosecuted not one was convicted. That is how unlawful those protests were, I would like to tell the hon. visitor sitting on my left. Then in 1973 we had the introduction of the Gatherings and Demonstrations Bill. While it was actually still before the House the Minister of Justice published a ban on open-air meetings, a ban which was to be in force until 30 May. Arising out of protests against the Gatherings and Demonstrations Bill, which was still then before the House, 44 Witwatersrand University students were prosecuted and there were no convictions. On the contrary, we find that students sued the Minister for wrongful arrest. According to Press reports and, indeed, the hon. the Minister has confirmed it this morning, a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money had to be paid out in ex gratia payments in settling those cases. If I got the figures correct this morning, the amount which had to be paid out was something like R24 000 and there are, I think, more cases pending. In Cape Town a total of 110 people were arrested, 42 of them students. What happened to those unlawful, violent protestors? All the charges were withdrawn. That is why we are debating this Bill today—for no other reason whatsoever. It is not because there is a threat to law and order or because the country is on the brink of a terrible crisis. It is nothing like that. The reason is that the Government lost all those cases against the students. This was intolerable to the Government and therefore we have to have a Bill which introduces the most far-reaching changes.
I want to say at once that I agree with the hon. member for Bellville that I do not think that the powers which are being taken in this Bill are going to be used against, for instance, the ladies of Houghton when they are playing bridge or against ladies playing bridge anywhere. I do not believe that to be the case. I do not believe either that they will be used against gentlemen playing chess in their clubs, which was a point made last night. I admit that in terms of the wide definition the powers could be used in this way, but I for one do not believe that they will be so used. I believe they will be used mainly against students. The main objective of this Bill is to enable the Police to get on to the campuses and clobber the students. The students consider the campuses as their private precincts and the hon. the Deputy Minister is determined that the campuses shall be open to the police should he wish to ban any meeting. The whole idea is to allow the police on to the campuses to clobber the students happily there. As a matter of fact, two Ministers are on record as having said that the students should not be allowed to protest, even if those protests are non-violent and peaceful. The one Minister is Senator Horwood and the other is the Minister of Labour, Mr. Marais Viljoen. Certainly no arguments I have heard in this House on this Bill have in any way changed my mind as far as that objective of theirs is concerned.
I believe that these powers will be used against workers who hold meetings in protest against low wages. I believe, too, that these powers will eventually also be used against all the Government’s opponents. That is what is going to happen ultimately. This is a political Bill and nothing else. What we have to deal with today is a further assault on the right of assembly in South Africa, nothing more and nothing less. It is a right which has been under attack over the last few years. Some years ago those robust meetings which we used to have in Johannesburg on the City Hall steps were stopped. A few years later the meetings which used to be held on the Parade ground in Cape Town as a tradition, were also forbidden—and I would remind the Nationalist Government that other sections of the population of this country also have traditions. A proclamation forbidding these meetings had to be introduced year after year, and were so introduced. Finally last year the prohibition became a permanent feature of our legislation because the Parade falls within the one-mile radius of Parliament. In 1970, I think it was, the General Law Amendment Act made it more difficult for processions to be held. The Chief Magistrate of the area had to give his permission as well as the local authority. That legislation was supported by the United Party. I believe that very few political processions have taken place since then. Last year we had the Gatherings and Demonstrations Act, which prohibited all gatherings and demonstrations from being held within a one-mile radius of Parliament, whether Parliament was sitting or not. Sir, firstly, no processions were allowed without magisterial approval; then no outdoor meetings were allowed in central Cape Town without magisterial permission and now, less than a year later, so greedy for power is, this Government that it comes along with a Bill which gives magistrates vast powers to prohibit meetings for a 48 hour period and gives the hon. the Minister power to restrict all or any gathering, public or private, for an unlimited length of time. So this process, which is eroding the normal rights of citizens, goes on and on. Always, of course, it is done in the name of law and order. The people who break the laws are not, in fact, the protestors, but the so-called people who ought to be upholding law and order. I want to say that the acting Judge-President of the Provincial Division had a lot of pertinent remarks to make when he was giving judgment on the student cases in 1972. He said, inter alia:
Then he went on, somewhat euphorically, may I add, to say:
Well, well! is all I can say to that, Sir. He went on to say:
Which brings me to a point I made when the Gatherings and Demonstrations Bill was under discussion in this House. I make no apology for repeating that point, for it is as valid today as it was then, namely that all the pious talk we hear about peaceful change via the ballot box is so much cant if people are not allowed the right of free assembly. Because it is at meetings, at free assemblies, that people can be persuaded to change their opinions and to give their votes to opposition parties, and are thereby able to change the Government of the day. That is the way it has been in democratic countries since time immemorial. Those rights are the ones which are being whittled away year by year in South Africa.
I warned the United Party when it supported both the Gatherings and Demonstrations Pill last year and the Processions Bill a couple of years ago, that they were giving the Government the green light to go ahead and restrict further the right of assembly. Today, when they are faced with another such measure, mirabile dictu!, they actually oppose it. I want to congratulate them. I think they have come a long way. I can only assume that they have had the benefit of the advice of someone…
They want to catch your votes.
No. I think they have had the benefit of the advice of Harry Schwarz. I want to give him credit for that. I think—if I may make such a feeble pun—that he must have read them the Riot Act when he saw the headlines in the newspaper the other day suggesting that the United Party may not be opposing this Bill. I think the telephone lines must have sizzled between Johannesburg and Cape Town. But I do not care. I am only glad that the official Opposition has for once shown a little guts and is actually opposing a Bill like this today. It was a pleasure, for a change, not to have to listen to fatuous nonsense from the hon. member for Durban North about the “inalienable right of his messenger boy”, for instance, and not to have to listen to more fatuous nonsense about “street democracy”. It was a pleasure, too, that for once, no reproachful admonitions were hurled at me for being disrespectful to magistrates. I am very grateful for that.
Other members have pointed out many of the worst features of this Bill. For example, the definition of “gathering” is now enormously wide; and the deletion of “public place”, etc., also has a very wide effect on the operation of this Bill. I want to draw the attention of the House to one or two other objectional features. In clause 2, particularly, the method of making known the prohibition of a gathering now requires notice only in one newspaper. So it can be published in one newspaper, in one language—mark you—and that is sufficient notice. All the other requirements all contain “or” so it is “newspaper or radio”, etc. Therefore, notice in one newspaper is all that is required. When, owing to urgency, notices could not be published, sufficient oral public announcement used to be required under the existing Act. Now, when this Pill is passed, all that will be required is an oral announcement. What exactly does that mean? Will a sibilant whisper from a police sergeant to disperse be considered in the courts as “oral announcement”? Why not “sufficient” oral announcement? I want to tell the hon. member for Potchefstroom that it is very necessary to have loud announcements made several times when you are dealing with a large crowd of people and there is a great deal of noise. I happen to know this from personal experience because I went to the Cathedral on Monday morning, following “Black Friday”, when I saw what was going on there, and it was clear to me that, even with megaphones the police officers were having difficulty in making themselves heard. I must say that I did hear afterwards that the megaphone was not working. That is another matter again. Anyway, the students got off on technicalities arising out of the method of announcement. I think that it is essential that the method of announcement should be kept as it is. It is absurd to provide for just an “oral announcement”. As I say, a muttered order by a police sergeant can then be considered to be an oral announcement. I believe, Sir, that these cases are particularly important because as the hon. the Deputy Minister mentioned—indeed, he stressed this a few times—mere attendance at a prohibited gathering is now a crime which it used not to be. Now just merely attending a prohibited meeting is a crime. Since we are now talking about crime and because with crime goes punishment, I want to ask the hon. the Deputy Minister whether I am correct in saying that if a person is convicted in terms of any provision of the Riotous Assemblies Act—there are a number of other legal brains here who might perhaps provide me with an answer—and it has been proved that the offence was committed in protest against any other law, does this render the accused liable to prosecution under section 1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1953? That is how I read it. If someone is found guilty under the Riotous Assemblies Act of protesting against a law, in other words, has acted in defiance of a law, he then falls foul of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1953, which, may I remind this House, bears the horrific sub-title—not officially, but this is how it is known—of the Whipping Bill. This is an awful Act which permits of the whipping of people if they are found guilty of acts of defiance. I should like the hon. the Deputy Minister to tell me whether my interpretation is correct in this respect.
Finally, Sir, I want to say that this Bill is just another link in that long chain of events that has converted South Africa from a country that less than 15 years ago was proudly boasting in its overseas propaganda that it was a country that upheld the rule of law, into a country that is beset with restrictive practices that run completely counter to all normal democratic procedures. The Government has no shame about this process at all; it has no shame about having eroded the rule of law in South Africa. There was a time when Ministers used to come to this House a little diffidently when they were going to introduce such measures, but not any more. They are as proud as peacocks about this. It is the “in” thing, you see, Sir, to be “kragdadig” if you are a Minister on the Government benches. Only last year when opening the new Krugersdorp Magistrate’s office, the hon. the Minister of Justice had this to say—
Now, what, one wonders, is “normal”? What did the hon. the Minister of Justice mean by “normal”? Is it the period of time, which I for one pray will never come in South Africa, when the Government will have silenced all opposition, when there will no longer be voices to protest against injustice and against discrimination in this country and against ruthless action against defenceless people? Will that then be “normal” in terms of the definition of the Government? Will things be normal, Sir, when South Africa consists of a lot of gormless, submissive human beings who accept everything that the Government is doing in silent acquiescence? Well, Sir, that might be the Government’s definition of “normal”, but it will be very hard indeed to get people of the Western world who value democracy and the rule of law to accept a situation like that as being normal.
Sir, I move as a further amendment—
The hon. member for Houghton conveniently forgot that there are also other provisions that have been raised in this Bill. I refer, for example, to the new section 2(4), which again provides for the fact that if and when in the opinion of the Minister there is reason to apprehend that feelings of hostility would be engendered between the European inhabitants of the Republic on the one hand and any other section of the inhabitants of the Republic on the other hand, he can adopt certain measures to prohibit a certain gathering in a specified place or in a specified area, or wheresoever in the Republic. Sir, I remain convinced that the Progressive Party is a party which arranges such gatherings. In that connection I want to refer to the somewhat suppressed conference of Balugha, which was reported, inter alia, in the Daily Dispatch under the headline “All-race conference at Balugha”, where it apparently came to the fore what precisely the ideal of that party is, i.e. to conduct dialogue in the way I am now going to mention to you. Sir, at that meeting Adv. Ramusi of Lebowa made an extremely responsible speech in which he brings to a head the fact that co-operation between Whites and Blacks in this country is a must and that anything in the past that has stood in the way of that should be removed and forgotten. But, Sir, that party’s liaison officer, Dr. Boraine, who played a leading role in this conference, then replied as follows—
Sir, what is the representative of the Progressive Party trying to do here? In my opinion he is trying to bring about exactly the kind of case that belongs under this new section 2(4), and I take the liberty of focusing the hon. the Deputy Minister’s attention on that.
Sir, the hon. member also referred, in conclusion, to the Rule of Law. Recently in the organ of the Department of Justice, Nuntius, Mr. Justice Broome wrote a very informative article on the Rule of Law, and I am going to quote to you briefly from it; it serves, at the same time, as an answer to the amendment of the hon. member for Durban North, in which he particularly places emphasis on the fact that this House must continue to campaign for the protection of individual freedom. He condemns this Bill because he believes that it does not make provision for measures to protect innocent individuals or organizations. Sir, what does Mr. Justice Broome tell us in connection with the rule of law? He states—
He continues by stating—
Sir, I say that those “quarters” are, inter alia, the Progressive Party, and also the United Party if they begin to move in that direction—
This Bill is not taking away the right to protest against an Act, provided this is done within the framework of our Constitution. This Bill is not trying to prohibit political meetings in the sense in which we know and acknowledge them. It does not take away the right of any legal man to criticize us in any journal. The only thing this Bill is doing is to re-emphasize accepted principles—and I shall come to those principles in a moment. But let us look at what Mr. Justice Broome has to say further about the case which the hon. member began discussing here—
That is precisely what this Bill contemplates preventing, i.e. the extra-Parliamentary actions of people who incite one another until they reach the point where law and order no longer apply. The hon. Mr. Justice Broome, who has now retired, was an honest judge of our country. I doubt whether there is anyone on that side of the House who would today argue that what Mr. Justice Broome said is unacceptable. It is my standpoint that what Mr. Justice Broome said completely endorses and confirms this Bill. It is also informative to note that when this Bill landed up in the hands of certain Press circles, they went out of their way to gather criticism and get hold of critics. Amongst others they approached Prof. Matthews, who has already published a bulky work on freedom, and Prof. Matthews is critical of this Bill, but I regret to tell the hon. member for Florida that he does not move in the same circles as Prof. Matthews, although he would have us believe here that he does. Prof. Matthews says he is convinced that this Bill will not be applicable to bridge parties. But now I want to tell you this: If feelings are stirred up at a bridge party and hostility between various population groups is promoted, or if at a swimming gala people are incited to storm the Parliament building and to break the law, then this is no longer a bridge party or a swimming gala. From that moment onwards, such action falls under this specific Bill. But it is also interesting that Prof. Matthews sees this Bill as having the particular advantage of being able to achieve the same objectives as the Suppression of Communism Act. He says—
He therefore endorses this Bill. To understand, evaluate and reject the United Party’s attitude today, we must take a brief look at the history of this Bill. In 1956 the legislation, as we want to amend it at present, was the subject of a Select Committee, which consisted of both sides of the House. The basic principle, which I shall come back to in a moment, was accepted in that Bill and nothing new has since been added. There were extensions of ministerial powers, and there were restrictions on certain publications by subsequent amendments, but basically the main principle was not encroached upon. What is that main principle? It is that no person may be allowed to attend a gathering and to then use that gathering to disrupt law and order in the country. This also forms the basis of the amendments we now want to introduce. There may be amplifying measures, as I shall indicate in a moment, but no more. It has now become necessary to change the machinery that is used to implement these principles. It has become apparent that the machinery is not efficient. I want to ask the hon. member for Musgrave whether he agrees that nothing can be more subversive and undermining to Parliament than if it should appear that its laws are inefficient. Does he agree with that? Now only silence prevails. There is no hon. member on the other side of the House who does lip service to parliamentary tradition, sovereignty and authority who can disagree with this statement, i.e. that there is nothing more undermining to Parliament than if it should appear that its laws are inefficient.
Thirty per cent of your laws are. Are you then undermining Parliament.
I have just said that this Bill is the result of joint action. Hon. members on the other side accept as much responsibility for this Bill as we do. I have just indicated this, and the hon. member did not disagree with that. That hon. member’s statement therefore falls away. I want to make the point that the basic principles, as approved in 1956, do after all need machinery with which they can be implemented. I said then that it would appear as if that machinery is inefficient. Tokens of that are to be found in the judgment of Mr. Justice Van Zyl. From that judgment it appears to be technically possible that if a police officer, who has received authority in terms of the Act, does not carry out exactly what the Act prescribes to him, the persons who are charged can be found not guilty.
Why does the Government need the amendments in subsection 2(l)(a) and (3)(a)?
But subsection 2(1)[a) has not been amended.
I do not know exactly what the hon. member has in mind.
Have you read the Bill?
I do not know exactly what the hon. member has in mind, but it is clear to me that the hon. member now wants to abuse knowledge. I shall answer him later when he tells me more clearly what he has in mind. In the meantime I shall continue.
Why does the Government need the amendment in subsection 2(l)(a) which provides “by any gathering in his district”? I am referring to page 5 of the Bill.
Previous speakers have already answered this question in great detail and discussed it very widely. [Interjections.] I can inform the hon. member that no material amendments are being introduced by means of the Bill, because the test which is in fact material has remained unchanged in each of these amendments. What is that test? It is that the magistrate must be convinced that there is an apprehension that public peace would be seriously endangered. In the case of the Minister the test also remains the same. In principle and basically there is consequently no amendment whatsoever. What we are doing is creating the necessary machinery so that the principle can better and more efficiently be implemented. It is necessary for us to extend this, in terms of the amendment he mentioned, to any place where such a situation could occur. I shall tell hon. members why. Because the public would lose respect for this Parliament if we were to acknowledge the principle that if a person is on the other side of the fence he is not allowed to hold a meeting where lawlessness and unrest can be stirred up, but if he climbs over the fence he may do so. That is the principle the U.P. hides behind. but it is no principle, it is a hollow slogan. The principle still remains, i.e. not whether he is on this side of the fence or on the other side, but what the purpose of that gathering is, and if the magistrate is convinced that it will cause unrest and discord, he can prohibit it. That is the point. I hope the hon. member is now satisfied. I want to amplify this point further. I want to tell the Opposition in what respect they must satisfy us today. In 1956 in Parliament the hon. members accepted the measures and their principles as contained in the principal Act. I know that in 1961 and 1962 hon. members voted against certain amendments, but those principles are not at issue today. The fact remains that in 1956 hon. members accepted the principle that a person may not use a gathering to establish unrest and discord, and likewise such a gathering may not be arranged. That is the principle which those hon. members accepted. Now that we find, in the light of decisions and practical experience, that we need machinery to implement the original principles which hon. members approved, hon. members come to the House and do not agree. What is the reason for that? Why do they not agree? The hon. member for Musgrave, who is apparently going to follow me up, must tell us why he does not agree with the principles. I want to suggest that they…
You will get the answers.
… and the Progressive Party should get votes from the same sources, i.e. from the front of Table Mountain and from behind Table Mountain. The hon. members have the same source from which they must draw, and it is no coincidence that they were still agreeing with us in 1956, even though there were still the Ballingers on the other side.
That was the public part of the Act, now it is the private part.
In 1956 all the hon. members still agreed with us, but since 1958, when the members of the Progressive Party were no longer members of the Opposition, they no longer agreed with us. Then suddenly they disagreed with us intensely. We want that explanation from the hon. members.
Another matter which the Opposition will have to explain to us today is why the hon. member for Durban North, when he delivered a fairly detailed although monotonous speech yesterday evening, suggested that he had no objection whatsoever to considering an individual who has attended a prohibited gathering as also having committed an offence. He had no objection to that. His biggest objection was that we are now encroaching upon personal freedom by also wanting to prohibit meetings on private property. That was his only objection, because against the other material amplifications of certain principles they did not have any objection. Must we accept that this is the official standpoint of the Opposition if their chief spokesman has nothing to say about that? Must we accept it as such? I should like the hon. member who follows me up to elaborate on that.
In conclusion I want to point out that when the principle was accepted in 1956, the principle that it was not an abuse of rights to prohibit a person from attending a meeting or himself convening a meeting if that meeting could result in the community being adversely affected, the Opposition agreed with us. Today they disagree with us. Now I want to know from hon. members what machinery they would put into operation to implement the principle which they approved.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Bloemfontein West asked me which arrangement we would support to strengthen the principle which we accepted in the past. I shall reply to this in the course of my speech.
†The hon. member for Bloemfontein West made a sinister remark when he said that this Bill will enable meetings to be prohibited of the type which took place in East London where consultation took place between Whites and non-Whites on the federation issue. That is very far removed from what the hon. the Deputy Minister said when he introduced the Bill. The hon. the Deputy Minister said that he would never use this power to stop bridge parties, etc., but does the hon. the Deputy Minister go along with the hon. member for Bloemfontein West in saying that consultation meetings between Whites and non-Whites can now be prohibited in terms of this Bill? Or is that the thinking of the lieutenants who are backing this Government at the present time? The Prime Minister has said that he is opposed to Black leaders being invited to address organizations in public. I think the hon. the Deputy Minister owes the country an explanation in this regard, even though he glibly says that he is only concerned with students. I want to go further and say that the hon. member for Bellville made the unfounded accusation, which was also implied by the hon. member for Bloemfontein West, that we on this side of the House are not prepared to restrict radical activists who would disrupt law and order. He made that allegation and I want to say to him that to propagate such an accusation for electoral purposes will make the person propagating such a statement guilty of the most blatant attempt to mislead the electorate by lying propaganda. I want the hon. member to know that before he puts this into pamphlets or publications of his party. That member and other hon. members opposite should know that the history of this party and this side of the House both inside and outside this House speaks for itself. We have remained consistent in our attitude and our determination to maintain law and order despite criticism, whether it has come from the verkramptes on that side or whether it has come from Progressives on the other side.
The hon. member for Houghton also entered this debate. One can understand that her contribution was a mere repetition of certain generalities. She no doubt has her mind filled with settling the great policy problems of her party concerning dagga, drugs and the Communist Party. She is no doubt also trying to reconcile the political hypocrisy of the leader of her party over amenities for non-Whites which they have propagated for so long. Unlike the hon. member for Houghton, we concede that powers to control gatherings which, if allowed, will disrupt public peace and order, are necessary, and it would be irresponsible for any of us to think that that control is not necessary. But this does not mean that we must as a Parliament, as the sovereign body in this country, surrender our belief in the right of individuals to lawful protest, that we must surrender our right to lawful assembly or that we must surrender the inalienable right of every citizen in this country to have access to and the protection of an independent judiciary. When liberty is curtailed—and liberty is being curtailed in this Bill—I believe that the limit of that curtailment must be explicitly circumscribed by Parliament in the legislation itself. The extent must be determined by Parliament and not left as a matter for the discretion of the Minister concerned.
That brings me to the reason why we are opposing this Bill. The hon. member for Durban North has dealt with certain aspects of the matter and then moved an amendment which concisely expresses our views. Let me look at the fundamental changes in this Bill. Here I come to the hon. member for Bloemfontein West. We start with clause 1 which deals with the definition. The hon. member will note that the definitions of “public gathering” and of “public place” are now deleted entirely by this Bill. The whole concept of the control of activities in public places has gone by the board, but yet the hon. member for Bloemfintein West asks us why we do not support this Bill seeing that we supported the previous one.
Perhaps he did not notice that.
That is the whole essence of this matter. This means that the full and necessarily extensive powers applicable in the Act can now be applied to all private property and to all gatherings of two or more people in circumstances which are very loosely circumscribed. With regard to clause 2, I was quite pleased to see that the ministerial restraint of the magistrate’s discretion had gone. I thought that at long last the hon. the Deputy Minister would say to this House: “We now agree that when matters are left to a magistrate or a judicial officer, he should have unfettered discretion.” However, there is no such change of heart as far as he is concerned. He says the reason is that it is inconvenient for the magistrate to have to ’phone the Minister. That approach of the hon. the Deputy Minister merely highlights the difference of approach of that side of the House and our side of the House in regard to legislation which is necessary to preserve law and order. If this had merely been an amendment to the existing Act to the effect that the magistrate can now carry out his duties without interference by the Minister, we would have welcomed it, but that is not what is in this Bill.
The Bill now before us says in clause 2 that whenever a magistrate “has reason to apprehend that the public peace would be seriously endangered” he can for 48 hours ban any gathering whatsoever in his district, and two or more people constitutes a gathering. I come now specifically to the question which the hon. member for Musgrave asked the hon. member for Bloemfontein West to deal with, i.e. “Why is it necessary for the new paragraph 2(1)(a) to be in this Bill?” Why should there be reference to “any gathering”? The Bill does not stipulate a particular gathering, a specified kind of gathering, a specified place, a particular area or, generally, the magistrate’s district. Over and above those, which limit his function to some extent, he now has the carte blanche of saying that any gathering should be banned. The hon. the Deputy Minister said this was necessary because students might meet in one place, say they are going to another place and then not go there but go somewhere else, with the result that someone would have to be chasing them all over the place. Even that does not make the new paragraph 2(1)(a) necessary in this Bill.
May I put a question to the hon. member?
May I just finish what I am trying to say? That proposition which the hon. the Deputy Minister put up does not make this right to ban all gatherings necessary. It would be quite a simple matter for the hon. the Minister if he felt that he should do it—I do not conceive that it should ever be necessary—to say that he bans any gathering of students, or the magistrate can ban any gathering of students within the magisterial district. It covers the position. He does not need to ban all meetings, all gatherings. Now the hon. member can put his question.
Is the hon. member of the opinion that if a particular meeting about to be held is considered dangerous, it would be less dangerous if it were held in private?
No. As I have said, as far as I am concerned, if the Minister uses his discretion and said that there shall be no student gatherings, he can act in terms of paragraph (b). I am arguing first of all on the question whether paragraph (a) is necessary. I believe paragraph (a) is not necessary. It is far too wide. It has no place in this Bill. There is another aspect about which the hon. the Minister is worried in regard to meetings in private places. This deals with a point which the hon. member for Bloemfontein West has raised. It would be quite easy to retain the Act as it is and then for the hon. the Minister to meet this position. I conceive that there are occasions when meetings in private places should be stopped. I am not talking about a private home or some place of that sort. I am talking about what is generally private property in the sense of grounds, for example the sporting grounds of the university, or something of that nature. It would be quite simple for the hon. the Minister to come to this House—we could look at it then—and say that he wants for purposes of the Riotous Assemblies Act as it now exists, to have some power whereby in certain circumstances, which he could work out, a certain place could be defined as “public” for the purposes of that Act. If the hon. the Minister comes with something logical and asks us to consider it, we will. But here he wants to throw overboard the Riotous Assemblies Act, bring it right into every facet of the private lives of individuals in this country because of a little difficulty the police might have here and there where a meeting is held in a private place.
Let us just look at what the hon. the Deputy Minister is asking us to endorse. I want the hon. the Deputy Minister—we talked about bridge parties, and so on, before—to assume that the magistrate uses this power to ban all gatherings. The Deputy Minister must then concede that no board meetings of any company in the city can be held.
I wish the hon. member would show me why, when he gets up to make his speech. Let me ask the hon. the Deputy Minister another question. Would an industrial conciliation meeting which is taking place not also fall within the ambit of this provision? What about an employer/employee conference going on to solve some wage dispute? These are all gatherings. When the Minister or the magistrate act in terms of that clause, all gatherings are banned. He could then stop the Deputy Minister of Bantu Administration and Education having a gathering with some municipality, looking at sites to set up amenities for non-White people.
That is the effect of this law which this Minister wishes to introduce. This is the law which he asks us to support. All the magistrate has to say, is that he has reason to apprehend that the public peace would be seriously endangered. That is the first step he has to take. But once he is convinced of that and says that there shall be no gatherings in his district, the only limitation can be found in the definition of “gathering”, and that does not exclude those gatherings to which I have referred. I think the hon. member for Pretoria Central should go back to practising at the Bar, and then perhaps he would not make the legal assertions which he made a moment ago in this House. If we look at the hon. the Minister’s powers we find that as far as he is concerned—I refer here to line 35, page 5 of the Bill—
What can he do, Sir? If this Bill is passed, he can ban any gathering in any area for any period or any day during specified times or during periods within any period. In other words, this hon. Deputy Minister has been given carte blanche to say: There will be no gathering whatsoever in the Cape Province or in Natal or wherever it may be. He can do this simply if he thinks, if he deems it expedient to do so for the maintenance of public peace. That is all he has to do. He can then say that there will be no meeting. Surely, Sir, if the hon. the Deputy Minister wants powers of this nature, the place to provide for these powers and the place to exercise them is under the Public Safety Act? Surely powers of this nature are given only to be used when there is an emergency, when there is a state of emergency?
These powers are as wide as any powers as are provided for under the laws of our country to be exercised by a Minister when the country is at war or when there is a declared state of emergency. The hon. the Deputy Minister wishes now to exercise those powers in these peaceful and happy conditions under which we are now fortunately living. We were asked last year to deal with the prohibition of public gatherings for the purpose of maintaining inviolate the area surrounding Parliament. This was a case in respect of a specified area and we on this side of the House supported that legislation because there was a clear limitation as to how far the Minister could go. But, Sir, if one goes further and looks at the other powers of the hon. the Deputy Minister, one finds that as provided for in the proposed new section 2(4) as inserted by clause 2 of the Bill, the hon. the Deputy Minister may, whenever in his opinion—
- (a) (i) by any gathering in any area during any period or on any day or during specified times or periods within any period;…
then ban that gathering. He can then ban any gathering, any gathering whatsoever.
Now, Sir, why has this to be extended to the private sector?
Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to address my remarks to you when the stupidity of the hon. member for Pretoria Central erupts now and again. I doubt whether he understands the meaning of the word “any”.
Order! The hon. member for Green Point must withdraw the word “stupidity”.
I withdraw the word, Sir.
The hon. member for Pretoria Central should just be patient for a while. He will be able to make his speech presently.
To have powers of this sort, Sir, extended into the private sector, into the lives and the liberties of individuals in South Africa, is certainly a principle and a concept we cannot possibly accept. We cannot be asked to accept these powers. If this Bill is passed, by decree of the hon. the Deputy Minister, the essential and fundamental liberties of gathering, of lawful protest and of conference and consultation, will be at the discretion of the hon. the Deputy Minister in regard to the extent to which they may be exercised by the people of South Africa. The hon. member for Bloemfontein West has already indicated that by decree the Minister can prevent consultation taking place between the Black leaders of the homelands and…
You are making a mistake.
The hon. the Deputy Minister says I am making a mistake. I hope he will show me where I am wrong.
I will show you.
If the Minister exercises the right to ban “any gatherings”, then the term “any gathering” applies to any gathering as defined within that area. It does not say that he has the power to ban specific gatherings. We would have no objection if he said “specific gatherings”, but this is not the position here. Sir, we are going to have this interference by ministerial decree. If this Bill goes through, South Africans will, in so far as their private and personal lives are concerned, be regulated, or subject to regulation, by the hon. the Minister as to where they can meet and discuss matters of common interest and whom they may meet to discuss those matters and his discretion is absolute; there is no right whatsoever to test that discretion in a court of law, except on the impossible basis of proving that the Minister acted mala fide.
Sir, does the hon. the Deputy Minister really expect this side of the House to accept legislation of this type? It is no wonder that the hon. member for Florida referred to the Draconian powers which are included in this Bill. Sir, yesterday when the hon. member for Durban North asked the hon. the Deputy Minster why these powers were necessary, he said: “Ask the member for Green Point.” I do not quite know what the hon. the Deputy Minister had in mind. Did he say that because I am a member of the Schlebusch Commission? Why was I to give the information?
Because you are a member of the Schlebusch Commission.
Does the hon. the Deputy Minster believe that I must now disclose to my colleague what is in the report of the Schlebusch Commission? Does he give me authority to read out what is stated in the report of the Schlebusch Commission? I would very much like to do it. How does the hon. the Deputy Minster know what is in the report of the Schlebusch Commission? He left that commission in August 1972. How does he know what is in this commission’s report?
I served on that commission for six months.
The hon. the Deputy Minister heard only one side of the story. Does he now say that that is sufficient for him to act, while none of the members of this House knows even that half of the story?
Has he read the report?
Has the hon. the Deputy Minister read the report?
I have much more information than you think.
The hon. the Deputy Minister has not answered my question. Has he read the report?
Of course I have not read the report.
So it was a fatuous interjection that the hon. the Deputy Minister made in introducing a measure of this sort when he told the hon. member for Durban North to ask me what is in a report which has not yet been published.
I have read the interim report that you signed.
If the hon. the Deputy Minister was serious in what he said and if the six months during which he served on the commission so impressed him, then surely he would ask the Prime Minister to put the report on the Table now.
What about the interim report that you signed personally?
Sir, the interim report came from the commission after he had left it.
And you signed it.
In any case, it did not deal with this issue. If the hon. the Deputy Minister feels so convinced that this Bill is necessary, then why does he not persuade the Prime Minister to table the report and let the public see it and judge for themselves what is in that report, what statements it contains and what the recommendations of the various members of the commission are?
The United Party’s attacks are based on an incorrect interpretation of this Bill. They are based on an interpretation that cannot rightly be made of the Bill as it is before this House at present. I contemplate dealing with the interpretation of this legislation and trying to prove where the United Party, in the person of the hon. members for Durban North and Green Point, went wrong with their interpretation. But before doing this, we must first fix a point of departure with respect to this Bill. We must ask ourselves what the object of this Act is, and then we must ask ourselves whether we agree with this object.
The object of this Bill is to prevent public peace and order from being disrupted. In its attack on the Government, the United Party spoke very little or hardly at all of the possibility of the disruption of public peace and order. I cannot recall the hon. member for Durban North making a single reference, in his speech yesterday evening in this House, to combating disruptions of public peace and order.
What does the amendment say?
The hon. member for Durban North presented this legislation as being a measure supposedly deal ing solely with the private lives of South African citizens, making no allowances for the limiting provisions of this Bill, i.e. that it relates solely to cases where public peace and order are being endangered.
You were not listening.
After having listened to the hon. member’s speech, I took the trouble to read it as well. His speech, when one reads it, is only a repetition of a statement which basically and fundamentally has nothing to do with the interpretation of this Bill. The general remark I want to make is that if we agree with this objective, i.e. that we want to preserve public peace in South Africa, and that we are all unanimous that we want to preserve it, I want to ask the Opposition to take a stand two statements concerning attitudes I want to put to the House now. The first is this. When it comes to the maintenance of public peace and order, it is essential that one must be able to act quickly. I want to challenge Opposition speakers to adopt a standpoint in this connection. Is it essential that one must be able to take quick action, yes or no?
We are not arguing about that.
I am very glad the hon. member for Durban Point is adopting that standpoint, and I think it is the Opposition’s standpoint that when it comes to the maintenance of public peace and order, one must be able to take quick action. But there is a second standpoint on which I should like the Opposition’s opinion, and perhaps the hon. member for Durban North would be good enough to inform us about his standpoint across the floor of the House. The standpoint is that when it comes to the maintenance of law and order, the ability to take quick action is not only necessary on the part of the Government, which has the responsibility for maintaining law and order, but it is also necessary for the Government to be able to act effectively. Would the hon. member say whether he agrees with this statement or not?
That is also true, of course.
Of course he agrees with that. It is now very easy to analyse this Bill from this point against the background of the Act which we have had since 1914. The question is now: “Could the Government, which is responsible for the maintenance of law and order, take quick and effective action?” Now we must view the history of this Act, analysing where the Government took action and seeing whether this action was in fact quick and effective. I want to state that history has shown that in the past, with the Act as it was, the Government could not act quickly enough and, as the Court cases subsequently proved, not effectively enough either. With the Act in its present form on the Statute Book, it has made all kinds of technical points available to defendants. It made it possible for people who commit offences, people who endanger public peace and quiet, to adopt technical points when they are charged. On the grounds of such technical points they are then found not guilty. In the court cases that took place last year as a result of the events in front of the Cathedral, the cardinal point, i.e. whether these people disturbed public peace and order or not, was never brought before the court as far as I know. The court cases were not concerned with whether public peace and order had been disturbed. The cases mainly centred around technical points. In other words, in the case in question, which resulted in certain court cases, we had a situation in which people did disturb public peace and order, but were nevertheless capable of being acquitted on technical points. The United Party now wants that situation to continue. Yesterday evening in his speech the hon. member for Durban North said on more than one occasion that the Act, in its present form on the Statute Book, is serving us well. He said on more than one occasion that the Act, in its present form on the Statute Book, has always been good enough for us. He also asked why it is now not good enough too. I want to ask the hon. member for Durban North whether he is entitled to ask this question if people, who have in fact disturbed public peace and order, are able to obtain verdicts of not guilty on technical points. I want to challenge the hon. Opposition to deny the following facts. This Bill does not change the principle of the Act in its present form on the Statute Book. The fact that it does not change the principle is the first thing it does not do. What it does do is that it makes possible the quicker and more effective maintenance of the principle of the Act, as it stands at present. That is why this Bill is in the public interest of South Africa. That is why the hon. Opposition is backing the wrong horse if it thinks it will obtain any support here for its standpoint. What they are actually doing is opposing effective, quick action in the interests of the maintenance of law and order. This means that the United Party does not want the Government to be able to take quick and effective action to maintain law and order.
May I put a question to the hon. member?
I shall give the hon. member an opportunity to put his question in a moment. I therefore say, and I stick to that: “The United Party is soft on law and order.” The hon. member may now put his question.
Why does the Government need the amendment included in the new section 2(1)(a) and why is the amendment in the new section 2(1)(b) not sufficient? Why does the Government need the amendment included in the new section 2(3)(a), and why is the amendment included in the new section 2(3)(b) not sufficient?
I want to assure the hon. member that when he put the question the first time, I heard it. I would be glad to give him an answer on that question. The new sections 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b) deal with different kinds of gatherings. The question the hon. member has asked goes to the very heart of this matter.
Where the hon. Opposition makes a basic mistake, with its main speaker, the hon. member for Durban North, and the hon. member for Green Point as spokesmen, is that they have not realized that the word “gathering” in those two subsections is interpreted differently. In the new section 2(1)(a), in which there is reference to “any gathering”, the word “gathering” has a different meaning to that in subsection 2(1)(b). In the new section 2(1)(a) the word “gathering” means, according to the definition in clause 1, any gathering, concourse or procession of any number of persons having a common purpose. In the new section 2(l)(a) a certain type of gathering is therefore being included. In the new section 2(l)(b) a gathering in respect of a specific place is being included. That is the difference. [Interjections.] The requirements of a common purpose is not applicable to subsection 2(l)(b). Subsection 2(l)(b) reads as follows—
In other words, now that particular gathering is being defined—
In other words, the gathering still relates to the particular area, or wherever the case may be, in the magistrate’s district. That is where the hon. members make the basic mistake. Subsection 2(l)(a) is limited to an important extent in two respects. That is why the hon. members’ argument is absurd.
What are the limitations?
I shall tell hon. members, with the greatest of pleasure, what the limitations are. The first limitation is that the Minister can only take action when he is of the opinion that public peace and quiet is being disturbed. That is the first limitation.
Not of all meetings, but of one.
That is where the hon. member makes a mistake. I shall tell him why he is making a mistake. The second limitation is that the Minister must specify the particular purpose of the meeting; in other words, although the Minister says “all meetings”, he is not saying “all meetings without exception”, but he is saying “all meetings with a specific purpose”.
With a common purpose.
Yes, with a common purpose.
All meetings in his district.
But it is the common purpose which the Minister will identify.
The Minister will not say “all meetings” where people gather socially. He will not say “all meetings” when people are making decisions and giving thought to certain matters at board meetings. He will not say “all meetings” when people get together for the purposes of recreation. The Minister will say “all meetings” and he will specify the particular objective. Then it is a matter of what the purpose is. The Minister must give consideration…
In terms of 2(1) (b) but not in terms of 2(1)(a).
The Minister must give consideration to those meetings with a particular purpose which he wants to prohibit. He must decide about that. Therefore it is not necessary for the Minister to state in his prohibitions, that he is excluding this or that type of meeting. He would not do so. The Minister will say he is prohibiting all meetings with that particular purpose. That is why the Opposition is on a completely wrong track, and that is why this Opposition is being unfair to the Government. The Opposition is not only being unfair to the Government, but as result of the propaganda they are disseminating, they are also being disloyal to South Africa. They are disloyal to South Africa because they are ascribing a purpose to the Government which it does not have in mind and which it does not have the power to implement either. For that reason it is not the legislation which is absurd, as the hon. member states. It is the conduct of the United Party which is absurd.
Does the definition of “gathering” not specifically exclude the new section 2(l)(a) if the provision of a common purpose is specifically excluded by the word “particular”?
The word “gathering” is defined as follows, and I quote from clause 1(a)—
So much for the definition of subsection 3(l)(b) and the other sections, as amended, which are mentioned. In other words, in respect of 2(1)(a) the word “gathering” means something else. In this case the word “gathering” means, as provided in clause 1(a)—
This then includes 2(l)(a)—
Business suspended at 12.45 p.m. and resumed at 2.20 p.m.
Mr. Speaker, before the adjournment I was speaking about the limiting measures in this Bill. I pointed out that the first limiting measure in the Bill is that the Minister can only act when public peace and order is prejudiced. I pointed out that the second limiting measure is that there must be a particular common purpose before all meetings can be prohibited for that particular common purpose, or else the gathering as such is described more closely. With that in mind, we must also adopt the standpoint with respect to the Government’s attitude as far far as extra-parliamentary conduct is concerned. Extra-parliamentary conduct, in the sense of protest marches and meetings, are always permissible in South Africa. Extra-parliamentary any person and voter in South Africa can always take action, subject only to the stipulation that the purpose must be either to convince the members of Parliament of a particular standpoint or to convince the South African electorate to vote for other people. Extra-parliamentary conduct will, in South Africa, never be allowed to bring about a change here other than through the polls.
What about the Ossewabrandwag?
I want to tell the hon. member who asked that question that under no circumstances will this Government, now or in the future allow any person or organization to bring this Government down other than via the polls. No single person, whose purpose it is to influence the members of Parliament or the South African electorate, need ever fear this Bill. This measure is not applicable to those cases, in spite of the untenable efforts of the United Party to prove the contrary. It is necessary for us to look at certain remarks the hon. member for Durban North made in his speech. Referring to the hon. the Deputy Minister, he said—
This remark on the part of the hon. member is, of course, an ascertainable error. It is quite wrong, of course. He continues—
I want to ask hon. members on that side what “the smallest flat in the country” has to do with public peace and public violence. How do they bring it in line with the requirement that the Minister can only act when there is a threat to public peace? The hon. member for Green Point says that an ordinary meeting, which the Minister may hold with officials, and an ordinary board meeting of directors can be prohibited. What has that to do with public peace and quiet?
Why are these aspects then covered by the Bill?
They are not being covered by the Bill. In the Bill the Minister is only authorized to prohibit all meetings with a particular purpose which can lead to the endangering of public peace and order. Where does the Opposition get the right to place this interpretation on the Bill? I can tell the Opposition that in doing so they are in very good company. They are in the company of the arch enemies of South Africa in England. Some of the Press reports appearing in those newspapers had exactly the same effect. The same unfair conclusions were drawn and the same omissions made, but no mention was made of the limitations. In his speech the hon. member for Durban North went on to say (Hansard, 21 February)—
Let us look at the word “public”. Technically speaking the word “public” has disappeared in the term “public meeting”, but the requirement continues to exist because the Minister can only act in such a case when there is a threat to public peace and quiet. I want to refer the hon. member to the proposed new section 2(1) which states—
You spoke of the Minister, not of the magistrate.
Mr. Chairman, I want to invite the hon. member to put his question, because I cannot hear what he is saying.
You spoke of the Minister.
Very well; that applies to the magistrate. As far as the Minister is concerned, the requirement is exactly the same. I refer the hon. member to the proposed new section 2(3) which states—
do certain things. What we cannot understand is how the members can argue that the Minister can interfere in the private lives of people if there is not a threat to public peace and order. Why are they creating here such a draconic image of this Bill, as if the Minister wants the power to interfere in the private lives of people, powers the Minister does not want at all, which he did not intend to obtain and which he does not obtain either in terms of the legislation? The hon. member for Durban North went further and said—
The hon. member contradicts himself. At another point in his speech the hon. member says he is not wedded to the idea that the ban should only be applicable to public places; it should also be applicable to certain private places. The hon. member contradicts himself completely; his speech is illogical. He cannot make the tale sound plausible. The hon. member goes further and makes what was perhaps his most outrageous statement—
I want to interrupt myself and say that the hon. member repeated countless arguments of his over and over again. To a certain extent I am therefore also saying the same thing over and over again, because I am dealing with what he said. I quote—
I want to tell the hon. member that his conduct in this House, and this type of language, is a complete misrepresentation. He is adopting a standpoint in connection with this Bill which cannot but be deception of the public at large. He is creating a false image of what the National Party and the Government envisage. I want to challenge the hon. member, or one of the other hon. members, to stand up in this House and say how the Minister can prohibit all meetings, can institute a “blanket banning” of all meetings, thereby to maintain public peace and quiet? There is surely no sense in that. It is surely an absurd standpoint which hon. members are adopting. No, Sir, the attitude of hon. members in this connection is outrageous. But perhaps the most outrageous conduct on that side of the House is that the Opposition is trying to undermine the confidence which the public should have in the means for maintaining law and order. The hon. member speaks of the “confidence” of the general public. He then says—
Then he states somewhere else—
But, Sir, it is surely completely ridiculous to be telling the public of South Africa that this Government wants to pass a Bill which will give rise to no one knowing what the law is. The Government’s actions are aimed, after all, at a particular objective, and every person, every citizen, will know very well whether his conduct could lead to the subversion of public peace and order. It was clearly not the hon. member’s idea to give a fair rendering of this Bill. He gives a completely confused rendering of it. This is again a reflection on the Government, and conduct which is not conducive to the maintenance of law and order in South Africa. The hon. member’s conduct in this House, his misrepresentations with respect to this Bill, is not conducive to the maintenance of law and order and good relations in South Africa. The hon. member continues and says—
Sir, where does the hon. member get the right to say that? The hon. member is presumptuous. To argue that the intention of this Bill is to interfere in the private lives of every ordinary citizen, is far-fetched. It is scandalous! The hon. member ought to know, surely, that this Bill is limited to the maintenance of law and order. I think this hon. member owes the House an apology for the misrepresentations with which he came to this House. I think the hon. member owes the South African public an apology. I think the hon. member must understand that we shall have to point out, on the platforms of the Republic of South Africa, that those hon. members are trying to lobby against the means, the instruments, which must maintain law and order, that those hon. members are making misrepresentations in this House and that they cannot be trusted with the maintenance of law and order in South Africa.
South Africa is experiencing difficult times, but there are a few things the South African public knows and accepts. I shall tell you what members of the public accept: They accept that this Government, this Prime Minister and this Cabinet, is a strong Government. In addition, the South African public accepts that this Government is a fair Government. The South African public also accepts that this Government can be trusted with the future of South Africa, and that is why the Government will return after 24 April.
Mr. Speaker, I should just like to reply briefly to the last point made by the hon. member who has just sat down. He is probably aware that this Bill proposes to amend an Act which was passed in 1914 by this side of the House when it was the Government. It has been in operation for 60 years; it has been through some very difficult days in the history of this country and it has stood the test of time. The only motivation the hon. the Deputy Minister could advance when introducing the Bill was that he thought certain technical difficulties had arisen recently in this connection. The Opposition officially intimated to him that it was perfectly prepared to agree to a request for powers of a reasonable nature. The hon. member for Durban North, in stating this, said he appreciated the fact that experience had shown that some of these public gatherings did tend to spill over on to private areas adjacent to such gatherings. We have said that in so far as that type of power is concerned, we have no objections. But this Bill goes very much further, and if one reviews what has been said by members on the other side who have supported the hon. the Deputy Minister thus far, the only conclusion one can come to is that there is utter confusion amongst them as regards either the interpretation of the Bill or its very contents. Some members on the other side are apparently under the impression that there can still be an appeal to the law courts in regard to any decisions that are taken. The hon. member for Bellville went to some trouble to indicate what judges had said. He told us that there was always the protection of the court to fall back on in such matters. The hon. member for Bloemfontein West did not even have a proper idea of the wording of the Bill before us. In fact, he had to read it very carefully himself when a question was put to him as to whether he understood the contents of the Bill and when he was asked why certain clauses had been included in the Bill.
The hon. member who has just sat down has also missed the point entirely. These gentlemen all seem to be under the impression that nothing in the Act itself has been changed; that the whole principle of the Act as it exists at the moment, has been retained in this amending Bill and that certain powers have merely been asked for to maintain peace and order. That, Sir, is a completely fallacious presentation of this Bill to the House.
The hon. the Deputy Minister himself took no steps at all, I am sorry to say, to explain that motivation for the Bill. In fact, he gave us nothing at all to indicate what motivated him, or what motivated the Government, in bringing a Bill of this nature before the House. The Act deals with public gatherings in public places. That is perfectly obvious; that has been the law over the last 60 years. Over that period of time, the Act dealt with the maintenance of peace and order in so far as public gatherings in public places were concerned. This Bill goes further and deals with private places and any gathering. It can therefore make an inroad into anyone’s life or anyone’s premises.
For the benefit of the hon. member for Pretoria Central, I should like to refer him to the word “any” in Stroud’s legal dictionary which he will find in the library. He will find that the word “any” is defined as “connoting something without any limitation or qualification”. Therefore the term “any gathering” means any gathering of any nature whatsoever. It is correct to say that the Minister may deem it necessary and expedient for the maintenance of public peace to prohibit, in the manner provided, any gathering. But that is entirely in the discretion of the Minister; it is something over which only the Minister has any control whatsoever. There is no appeal to the courts, and there can be no interference with his discretion. When he uses the term “any gathering in any area at any time and in any place”, he can do exactly what he likes without giving any reasons. All he need say is: “I deem it to be in the interest of public peace to forbid a particular gathering at a particular place, and I can do so even if I find a gathering of a few people in a private home, gathered together for a common purpose, either to have a little discussion or even to have a little tea-party, or simply to meet each other.” He may not like it and he may forbid that gathering.
Even the hon. member for Houghton is shaking her head.
Hon. members on the Government side say that that is absurd. Let us take that point further. If that is absurd, why does the hon. the Minister seek a blanket power of this nature? Why is he not satisfied to do exactly what he purports to do? In other words, he wants to have the right to prohibit meetings on private property as well. He has in mind university campuses probably; he has in mind other places like the Parade, where a gathering has been prohibited under another law; he has in mind places where one cannot control the situation because the gathering spills over into private premises, as it did in the Cathedral halls. We realize what he wants to do. Why does he not say so clearly? Why must a Bill be brought before this House which is not only ambiguous but is so imprecise in its terms that the public are deeply concerned about the type of power which is sought here? It seems to me that when the Government seeks obvious powers, it then builds into the measure some additional powers which give it an unfettered right to exercise the power of the executive without any right of appeal to the courts and without any opportunity to people to offer any explanation. We have had that experience in a number of laws which have been passed already. The Government has the right to ban people, to prohibit meetings and to do whatever it likes; it can keep people incommunicado. There are numerous statutory provisions which are exercised solely and entirely by the executive at its sole discretion. Here the Government comes along and seeks to amend the Act in order to cover a particular situation, but it goes further and builds into the Bill a complete blanket provision. Sir, I want to say that the term “any gathering in a magisterial district” is a very wide term. No limitation is placed on the type of gathering which can be prohibited. Sir, nobody on that side has yet responded to the challenge to explain why section 2(l)(a) or section 3(l)(a) is being inserted into the Act. Why has the Deputy Minister not been satisfied with section 2(l)(b) and 2(3)(b) which give him the right to deal with a specific gathering or a gathering at a specified place or in a specified area? Then at least we would know what he wants to do and the public would know what he wants to do and the Statute Book would reflect exactly what the hon. the Minister wants to do. Unless he can give a satisfactory explanation to us and to the country as to why he seeks this additional blanket power, one cannot accept that he is not actuated by a motive which he does not want to disclose to the House. If, Sir, it is the desire of the executive to inhibit and to restrict entirely the movement of people and to prohibit gatherings of people in any form or shape anywhere in the country, then we must know where we stand because the public is entitled to know with whom they are dealing. With regard to the question of maintaining law and order, I want to say that the accusation that this side of the House wants to undermine it, is utter nonsense. It is an irresponsible statement coming from a man who is a member of the Bar of which he so proudly claimed to be a member in this House today. After all, Sir, we have always adopted a responsible attitude and we have always supported the Riotous Assemblies Act. In fact, when the Act was consolidated in 1956, there was no debate on the matter.
But that was before you had Harry with you.
It does not matter whom we had with us. We are dealing with a Government which is trying to make political capital out of nonsensical arguments. Nothing has been shown to this House yet which illustrates why it is necessary to have a complete blanket ban. It has been correctly pointed out that we are not in a state of emergency. There is no martial law that has been proclaimed in the country. We have problems, but those problems have been well covered over a number of years and can be well covered also if the scope of this particular Bill is limited. The amendment moved by this side of the House virtually speaks for itself, and that is what the public of South Africa would be satisfied with. The fact is that this side of the House, mindful of the need for maintaining public peace and order as the foundation for individual freedom, is prepared to give the Executive reasonable powers, but does not want to give the Executive arbitrary powers which can lead to an unwarranted and unjustifiable interference in the private lives of people. The people whom we represent all over this country are deeply concerned about this. It is not sufficient merely to throw up a smokescreen; to introduce a Bill which contains some very serious inroads into the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the individual, and then merely to come along with a platitudinous statement that the Government side of the House wishes to maintain law and order in the country. It has all it needs to maintain law and order. It has only found one little difficulty, on account of certain technical problems which have arisen. If their request is a reasonable one—and parts of the Bill are reasonable—we would be prepared to go along with it.
There are other details of the Bill we have not dealt with, but we will deal with those details in the Committee Stage. The hon. member for Potchefstroom, for instance, spent most of his time not telling us what the contents of the Bill were, and not justifying those contents, but telling us exactly what we knew, that a difficulty had arisen two years ago at the Cathedral steps. He gave details of all the problems which arose all of which are very well known to every member of this House because we were all very closely and intimately concerned with it.
You must have been asleep last night. You do not know what it is all about.
I heard what was said last night, and I do not think any word was said by that hon. member last night to justify this Bill. Sir, with regard to the powers of the magistrate, the magistrate has to have good reason to apprehend that public peace will be seriously endangered and then he can take certain steps. The fear that has been expressed here is that after the magistrate has prohibited a meeting in one spot, these people can run off and hold their meeting in another spot. I do not think that, which is an unusual type of occurrence in any case, is any justification for enabling him to declare a complete blanket prohibition on meetings. Sufficient examples have been given already today to indicate what that means.
I would like the hon. the Deputy Minister to know that far from accepting the allegation of the hon. member for Potchefstroom that we dealt with this matter in a light vein last night, we are deeply concerned with this matter. We are deeply concerned that at a time like this, when we are facing a general election in two months’ time, and, during the dying hours of the session, a Bill of this nature is put before the House containing principles which entirely differ from the existing principles of the Act. Not a member on the Government side, not any of their trained lawyers, has yet been able to give any reasons, factual or analytical, justifying the Bill. There has been so much difference of opinion that one has even had to look for definitions of the very words themselves in order to satisfy legally trained men like the hon. member for Pretoria Central. We have even had to determine the meaning of the word “any”. It is something which he does not comprehend at all.
You should refer to the definitions clause. [Interjections.]
I think that the hon. the Deputy Minister has a duty to this House to motivate every change that he wants to make. I want to tell him now quite frankly that as far as this side of the House is concerned we definitely cannot accept any change in this Act which is going to give him or any other authority the blanket powers which he seeks by means of this Bill. I think we must state that categorically so that there can be no doubt in the minds of the public that as regards law and order, and any reasonable powers which may be required, we shall continue in the vein in which we have over the years in regard to the maintenance of law and order in this country. In regard to any other law which will restrict the freedom of the public, our approach will differ. There is no such thing as an absurdity in this Parliament—far from it. The hon. the Deputy Minister is a trained lawyer himself and he knows that when you have to analyse an Act and appear before the judiciary you cannot tell the judiciary, as regards the interpretation of words, that despite the fact that the law makes provision for certain powers those powers are not sought, will not be used and in fact do not exist because those powers would be an absurdity if they were made use of. Is the hon. the Deputy Minister prepared to back up what has been said, namely that the exercise of these powers by him to the fullest extent, as described in the Bill, will be an absurdity and that he will never use them? Is he prepared to limit categorically what powers he is going to take? On the other hand he knows better than I do that you cannot take Hansard to the judiciary to tell the judiciary that the Minister intended really only to limit himself to a certain situation and to a certain state of affairs. That is why it is our duty as an Opposition, our duty on behalf of the public and our duty as the critics of the Government, to point this out and to take a stand when we find that, innocuous as the hon. members on the other side seem to think the powers are which are being sought, they are about to be put on the Statute Book. Who is to guarantee that the benign hon. Deputy Minister of Justice—if that appellation will suit him—will be in office when certain of these powers will have to be exercised? Who knows who will exercise these powers as time goes on in the life of the country?
It could even be Louis.
Yes, it could even be the hon. member for Potchefstroom and he would merely worry about the Cathedral steps.
We know that they are bankrupt but surely not that bankrupt.
The point is that one does not know in whose hands this will lie, because the Act makes it absolutely clear that it lies in the hands of the Minister. I think that these are very far-reaching steps and they do change the principles in the Act completely. If they do change the principles in the Act to that extent, then I am afraid that we on this side of the House cannot go along with the hon. the Deputy Minister.
I should like to make my final appeal; the people of our country are entitled to be satisfied that law and order will prevail. They have been satisfied hitherto by virtue of the Riotous Assemblies Act which has been in existence over this long period of time. We are prepared to concede that certain additional powers could be granted to the State with regard to private property. However, we are not prepared to go along with the Government to permit the public to suffer the inhibitions and the limitations of their freedom of action, movement and thinking, and the privacy of their homes which is interpreted through the words “any gathering”.
Go and read the Bill.
I have read the Bill. It is the hon. the Deputy Minister who must go and read the Bill. “Any gathering” means any gathering in any area during any period, it could be in the middle of the night or any time. The hon. the Minister cannot interpret the word to suit himself. I can give the hon. the Deputy Minister two legal luminaries which have been written in this country and in Britain, from where we take a great deal of decided cases, which will interpret the word “any” to be a word without limitation or qualification. It is no good asking us to read the Bill again. The words “any gathering” are important. They change the complete definition. The hon. the Deputy Minister has changed the complete definition. He has taken out the words “public gathering”, “public place” and the number of people. After all you cannot read something here which does not exist. I ask the hon. the Deputy Minister when he replies to read the Bill to us in detail. If he reads it to us orally, maybe he will hear what he says and we should then be able to tell him whether he is reading correctly or not. We know exactly what is written in the Bill because we have studied the Bill. Judging by what was said by speakers from this side of the House, I think it is obvious that we know what the Bill contains. The hon. the Deputy Minister must realize that there is utter confusion in his own ranks. If he can tell me why the hon. member for Bellville still is under the misapprehension that he can go to court on any of these provisions and why the hon. member for Bloemfontein West has the confused idea that there has been no change at all, then perhaps we can learn something of what they have in mind.
Where are the courts excluded in this Bill?
The courts can only come into the picture with regard to the magistrate’s action. With regard to the executive action provided for by the new sections 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b)…
It was the same in the principal Act.
No. In terms of the new 2(1)(a) and 2(1)(b) the Minister “deems” a thing. You cannot interfere with it once the Minister deems it because it is purely within his own discretion to what he does. You cannot go to the courts on that. Nobody is asking the hon. the Deputy Minister to specifically provide for anything but the judiciary has been the boast of this country and in this debate we have heard of the high standard of our judiciary. All of us subscribe to that. The hon. member for Pretoria Central started lauding the Bench which does not need lauding since it lauds itself by its own action. For the hon. the Deputy Minister to ask me what interferes with the approach of the courts seem to me somewhat laughable, because he himself must understand what it means when a Minister takes for himself arbitrary powers. That is what the public has to know. The public has to know that the Executive, which is the Cabinet of this country, seeks for his Ministers powers which are completely arbitrary and with which no one can interfere. The discretion or the deeming thinking of the Minister is the only factor that operates. I believe that that is a dangerous situation for any country to find itself in. It is dangerous especially in a country like ours where we need peace and harmony and unity above everything else, and not conflict and diversion as is created by this type of legislation.
My plea to the hon. the Deputy Minister is to reconsider this. Let his own group, his own justice group speak with one voice instead of speaking as they have from different voices all with different interpretations and all with a different appreciation of what the Bill says.
Mr. Speaker, we have listened to the hon. member for Jeppes, and without being personal, I really want to say that he contributed nothing to what had been said previously. We are tired of hearing that the original legislation has been on the Statute Book for 60 years and that it should not be changed now; that it has worked well for 60 years. Many things have changed since 1914. It is resumably not necessary for me to explain to the hon. gentlemen like a primary school teacher how the world and South Africa have changed since 1914. Did Britain, the U.S.A. and France have special riot police in 1914? Is it not true that we are living in a period in which demonstrations leading to violence are the order of the day in the Western world?
Is it not true that the whole emphasis has shifted from the orderliness and the calm we have had in the conduct of public affairs, to the present state of affairs in which anarchy and rioting are the order of the day in many countries? This is true to such an extent that Britain, which is the cornerstone of democracy today, is being urged by responsible commentators to fight for its life and for the preservation of democracy. That is, after all, why we cannot go on applying the standards of 1914 today. If an Act which was good enough for another dispensation has to be changed because we now have a new dispensation, this Government will not hesitate to change it. We would then take the steps necessary to ensure, secure and bring about the continued existence of all that is good in our society. A great fuss has been made and any number of arguments have been raised in this debate concerning the interpretation of “any” and the scope of this measure, whether it is a blanket measure or not. What is the object of this Bill?
The objects of this Bill is to prevent or control riotous gatherings. If it is aimed against anyone, it is aimed against those who want to instigate or take part in a riotous gathering. Why, then, the concern that people who want to hold tea parties, play cards or hold board meetings will be affected by this legislation? It is absurd to allege that we would use legislation relating to riotous assemblies to break up a tea party. Such absurdities one can expect from an Opposition that has been torn in two.
It is stated in the legislation that a magistrate may only prohibit a gathering if he has reason to believe that it would disturb peace and order. If he were to prohibit a tea party, then surely he would be acting ultra vires, exceeding his powers and using his discretion in a grossly negligent way. Then he himself would be virtually ipso facto mala fide. Then the rights of the court would be brought into question. There are other restrictions too. There are restrictions on the Minister. Section 19 of the Act of 1956 remains on the Statute Book, unchanged. Hon. members need not even ask here what was done during the recess in respect of the application of this measure. The Minister is obliged by Statute to report to the House.
Hon. members would then be able to debate it in this House. Have they so little confidence that they would not welcome the opportunity, if we, as alleged, were to break up tea parties and slip into people’s flats under this measure, to expose here to public contempt such ridiculous action on the part of this Government if that would help them to come into power? We shall re-report on everything we do and hon. members may lodge complaints if they should see that their fears are being confirmed. But we have a record which gives us the assurance that we need not be afraid of reports which we submit here. What we are having here is a raising of dust in an attempt to scare the public.
Out of everything hon. members opposite have said thus far, I think that the following summary of their standpoint would be a fair one. I should say that they are taking up the standpoint here that they acknowledge the necessity for such a measure, but that they are saying at the same time that the Government is requesting too many powers, the so-called blanket powers which we are supposedly requesting. In the third instance they say that the Government cannot be trusted with the application of this legislation. Hence these references to the courts which imply that they desire that the actions of the Government in this regard be tested in court. In this regard the hon. member for Durban North said this in his introductory speech: “In the end and in the beginning all democracy and all freedom rests with the independent courts.” Later on he went on to say this: “Now, if Parliament gives these powers as they are, and they are used, the courts are powerless to interfere if these powers have been given, and it is clear that they have been given in unequivocal terms.”
Here I want to interrupt myself and, in regard to this plea, which is made by implication concerning the role which must supposedly be assigned to the courts, I want to refer to a speech by the hon. member for Bezuidenhout which I think was made here yesterday or the day before in another connection, when the delimitation of constituencies by the Delimitation Commission, which consisted of three judges, was rather subtly called into question. The hon. members of the Opposition praise the courts when they think they can make political capital out of them, but then again they also question the integrity of those same people sitting on the Bench when they think they can make political capital out of that.
In this Bill confidence is placed on the people sitting on our Bench. We do not want to burden judges with these petty matters. Nor would this be practical, because we do not have a judge in every town. We are placing confidence in our magistrates by giving them certain powers. Do the Opposition now want to say that they do not trust the magistrates? Do they think that these people who are accustomed to dispensing justice are going to abuse this Bill to break up tea parties or to interfere at church council meetings? Do they really think that the public is going to listen to a party which comes up with such absurdities?
Apparently, therefore, the United Party is in favour of this Bill in principle. If the matter is analysed a little more carefully, however, I doubt whether they are really in favour of this Bill as far as the key question is concerned. It must be possible to apply effectively, and the key question is: “Do they want it to be applied effectively?” My impression is that they do not want this, as I shall try to indicate shortly. I want to submit that if they were as concerned as we are about the maintenance of law and order, their reaction would have been quite different from what we have had from them so far. If that were the case we should have had a different speech from the hon. member for Durban North last night. In the first instance, he would have mentioned to us, as his point of departure, that the United Party was positively in favour of the prevention and suppression of riotous gatherings.
But that is precisely how our proposed amendment reads.
We acknowledge that and we agree that the existing Act is inadequate and that people have been released on technical points
I said precisely the same thing.
Give me a chance. That is why we have to iron out these problems. We also concede, as the hon. member did say, that certain private places such as university campuses, private halls and other meeting-places could be the starting point or finishing point of riotous gatherings. If they really wanted effective control, however, they would have said: “That is why we shall propose certain amendments at the Committee Stage because we feel that this legislation goes a little too far. We on our part, with our trained lawyers, will put forward a specific proposal in order to prevent the powers being quite so wide and yet to have effective control all the same.”
That, however, they did not do. They are opposing the Second Reading. They are opposing the principle, and I ask myself what the new principle is which they endorse since they did not oppose the principle in 1956. We heard from a number of them that the new principle which they see is that we are now interfering with the right of the individual to do as he likes in private. This merely brings us back to the old gulf between this party and the United Party, the gulf between their outlook on life and ours, the gulf between the National Party—which sees as its task the maintenance of law and order and the striking of a balance between the interests of the individual on the one hand, his right to live his life to the full as an individual, and on the other hand the interests of the community, its right not to be prejudiced or undermined by the actions of individuals—and the United Party with their way of thinking.
Then, too, it is the standpoint of this side that there should also be a balance in respect of individuals. When individuals meet and plan, arrange and put into practice a riotous gathering, other individuals become involved in that riotous gathering. When a shop-owner’s window is broken by demonstrators, his rights as an individual are prejudiced. The motorist in the road whose car is overturned by a rioting crowd, is prejudiced. When a woman goes shopping and receives a blow on the head, her rights as an individual take a hard knock. Is the U.P. concerned about those individuals?
In this situation we must also choose between individuals and individuals, because there are law-abiding individuals in the country and there are individuals whose aims are not conducive to law and order. The National Party will not hesitate to deal firmly with individuals in public as well as private places if they disturb law and order. We see that as our duty and calling. To the United Party, on the other hand, and to a greater extent the Progressive Party, the rights of the individual are sacred. They come first. Their basic philosophy of life is that the authority of the State should be restricted to the minimum. They say that trouble should occur first and only then should the State interfere. In the words of the hon. member for Durban North, every individual must be entitled to do his own thing. And he, in doing his own thing, must first break the law before the State intervenes. Sir, that is the basic difference between this side and that side, and is, in essence, what this debate is concerned with. I challenge hon. members of the Opposition, if they really want effective prevention of riotous gatherings, to put forward a positive proposal on how we may extend the Minister’s powers in a way different from the way in which we have done it. I am convinced that the Deputy Minister would give serious consideration to such a positive proposal. He would examine it, and if he believed that such amendments as were proposed would enable him to apply effective control, I am sure that he would consider them.
To conclude, if hon. members opposite are concerned about the rights of the individual, they should ask themselves whom they are concerned about. The hon. member for Durban North said that this legislation had brought with it an “element of uncertainty for the persons to whom it will apply”. To whom will this Act apply? This Act will apply to those whose intention it is to arrange, instigate, organize or take part in riotous gatherings, and this measure is aimed against them and against them alone. Why are they so concerned about these people? This may be for political reasons. It may be because there are people in their ranks who share the Progressive Party’s concern for these people, and that for the sake of political expediency, to satisfy a faction in their party, they are now adopting this attitude. But we know that they also have people in their midst who share our concern for law and order, and that is why they do not oppose it as absolutely as the Progressive Party. They are once again falling between two stools. Sir, as far as this matter is concerned, they are going to fall heavily between these two stools at this election. Democracy is the very thing which we on this side want to protect through the application of this Bill. In that respect it is a positive measure, a measure for everyone in this country, and not simply against everyone. It is a measure aimed against the inciters and agitators, and against them alone.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Vereeniging seemed to suggest in the closing portion of his speech that this law, if passed, is going to apply only to “opstokers” and people of that nature. That is what he said. I want to remind him of what was said earlier in this debate by the hon. member for Bloemfontein West. Let me remind him that the hon. member for Bloemfontein West suggested that this law could well have been used against the people who organized the interracial consultation on federalism at East London some time ago. Does the hon. member for Vereeniging agree with that interpretation of the way the law should be applied?
You are taking my remarks out of context.
No, it is not out of context at all. What was the context? That indeed was the context, otherwise that hon. member would certainly not have mentioned this consultation in relation to this law. I noticed at the time that the hon. the Deputy Minister certainly did not seem to go along with what the hon. member for Bloemfontein West had to say. It is true that he did not deny what was said but I trust that when he replies to this debate we shall hear from him in clear terms whether he agrees with the wide political application of a law such as this or whether indeed it is intended to be used in a narrower sense. We have our suspicions; of course we do. We are not so naïve as to take everything that is told to us by this Government at face value. One only has to look, Sir, at some of the laws on our Statute Book and at the promises that were made at the time that they were passed by this House, and subsequently at the way in which they were applied, to have very good reason to doubt their bona fides.
Quote me one.
The hon. member for Cradock says that I must quote him an example. Is he prepared to tell me that the Suppression of Communism Act has only been used against communists?
But of course.
But of course! That is absolute nonsense. It has been used against non-communists. The hon. member knows that as well as I do. He knows that perfectly well. It has in fact been used against anti-communists. You know that Ronald Segal was a case in point. He attacked the communists consistently and yet he was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act.
He furthered communist aims.
The hon. member should know that. If he does not know it, he should not be sitting in this House. What about the promises that were made in terms of the detention laws? We were told that these would only be used in certain circumstances. Is it true that they would only be used in the case of political offences? Is the hon. member for Cradock prepared to deny that the detention laws were used for normal criminal offences such as robbery? Is he prepared to deny it? Sir, now we have silence. He knows that we can quote him chapter and verse. There is absolute silence now. Can you wonder, Sir, if we look at this with more than a touch of cynicism?
I want to come back to the hon. member for Vereeniging. He told us that he was tired of hearing from this side of the House that the existing law had been in operation for 60 years and that it had worked perfectly well up to now. We all know what the background to this Bill is; the hon. member for Potchefstroom told us last night. I shall come back to him in a moment. Sir, I suggest that we were perfectly entitled to stress the fact that this law has served us well for 60 years and I shall tell you why. The question of student unrest is nothing new to us. Those who read the columns of Die Burger a few months ago must have read Schalk Pienaar’s reminiscences of how at the start of the war students came from Stellenbosch University to demonstrate on the Parade.
They can still do it.
The United Party Government, which was in power at the time, did not come rushing to Parliament for all sorts of wide powers. It dealt with the matter as a good Government should. There, Sir, we had an exact parallel and we showed as a Government how such things should be handled. It is quite obvious that those hon. members do not even read their own Press. If they did, they would be perfectly aware of the plans that were made by the students at the time. Even the hon. member for Potchefstroom is not so young that he cannot remember the problems that were experienced in Potchefstroom between students and the authorities.
He probably caused it.
I am not prepared to say that. But as a Government we were dealing with the same sort of problem and we did not seek powers such as these which have been called draconian. I would call them jackboot powers. We did not seek powers of this kind just to govern the country properly.
That is why you were chucked out.
That is what hon. members opposite are afraid of now.
Now we have the answer.
Sir, almost every speaker who has risen from that side of the House has ignored what the amendment of the hon. member for Durban North says, and I hope that when the hon. the Deputy Minister replies to this debate he will have some comment on the amendment which has been proposed from this side of the House. You see, Sir, in this amendment we make a certain number of things absolutely clear. We recognize the need to ensure public peace and order as the foundation for individual freedom. Is there any objection to that? Certainly not. At all times we are prepared to give to the Executive reasonable powers for the maintenance of public peace and order when circumstances warrant it. And here my colleague, the hon. member for Green Point, was very explicit, and I can only assume that those hon. members who are now questioning this were not here when he spoke. But, Sir, we are opposed to the principle of this Bill and that is why we are opposing it at the Second Reading. We have mentioned several reasons, one of which is terribly important, and if there are any other speakers on that side of the House we hope that we are going to hear from them, but certainly from the hon. the Deputy Minister, what they have to say about our amendment and whether they can in fact argue with it. One of the reasons given by us is that this Bill permits of the exercise of arbitrary powers which could result in unwarranted and unjustified interference in the private lives and the rights of individuals to an extent not necessary for the maintenance of public peace an order, and we have made out a very good case which has not yet been answered.
I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but I want to say that it seems as though speakers on the other side have certainly not understood the amendment. We claim that the Bill abandons the principles of the law relating to riotous assemblies and the disturbance of public pe and order, which has been applied and accepted in South Africa for 60 years. I want to say very briefly that the Bill fails to provide adequate safeguards against injustices to innocent individuals and organizations.
Now, there have been a number of characteristics of this debate. Almost nothing has been said by way of motivation of this Bill. When the hon. the Deputy Minister introduced it last night, he told us nothing that we could not have read for ourselves the first time we looked through the Bill. At the time it was suggested that perhaps he did not know anything about it and that this was a speech that had been prepared for him. I doubt whether that is in fact the case. I doubt very much whether the situation is as simple as that. You see, Sir, during this debate other elements have crept in and other attitudes have crept in. This has indicated to me that the Government, in bringing a Bill such as this before the House at a time like this, has been nothing less than extremely brash and uncaring of the rights of people. They seem to have been devoid of any appreciation of what this Bill actually sets out to do. I have mentioned the jackboot approach. I think the debate has indicated to us, from the introductory speech of the Deputy Minister up to now, that this jackboot approach is being used.
Before we go any further there is just one thing on which I should like to join issue with the hon. the Deputy Minister, and I want to follow on what was said by him about the hon. member for Green Point and the Schlebusch Commission. I raise this not because I think that my colleague, the hon. member for Green Point, has not dealt with it adequately, but because the hon. the Deputy Minister was not alone in making comments of that nature from that side of the House. The hon. member for Rissik last night, during the speech of my colleague from Durban North, made the interjection: “You are running away from the Schlebusch Commission.” I think he will remember that. Now, the hon. the Deputy Minister seemed to wriggle an awful lot when he was asked straight out whether he knew what was in the Schlebusch Commission’s report. He knows very well. He tried to tell us that he was basing his comments on what he had read in those first interim reports, but we know that is nonsense.
I have not read the Schlebusch report; I have not read the evidence.
I accept his word on that, but then all I shall say is that last night he was going on a fishing expedition. I should like to ask the hon. member for Rissik on what he based his interjection. It is very strange, Sir, that we have people referring to the Schlebusch Commission and its reports and yet we know perfectly well that these have never been tabled; they have not been released. Hon. members opposite should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for introducing things of this nature when it is quite obvious to us that they are most reluctant to have those reports laid on the Table of the House.
The hon. the Deputy Minister said he had not read the evidence. Does he also say that he has not read the report itself?
I have only read the reports that have been tabled in Parliament.
Well, I think that gives us some indication of how much of a lightweight the hon. the Deputy Minister is.
Should I have read all the reports?
Let us deal for a moment with the hon. member for Pretoria Central. This hon. gentleman let the cat out of the bag in many respects and in one respect he betrayed the entire attitude of the Government in this matter. He came out with a threat, and he will remember his threat. He said that, from the political party platforms throughout the country—obviously during the coming election—they would have to expose the fact that the United Party were opposed to the preservation of law and order. Sir, is he trying to threaten us? That statement betrays everything the Government is trying to do with this piece of legislation. They know perfectly well that they do not need this legislation in this form. But they do know perfectly well that they need some sort of “kragdadige” showing before they go into the election campaign. They know perfectly well that they have to shake their fists and stamp their boots before they go to the country.
Mr. Speaker, may I ask the hon. member a question?
No not now; perhaps later, if I have the time.
Sir, let us come to the motivation, those scanty scraps of motivation we have had so far from the Government side for this piece of legislation. We had nothing at all from the hon. the Deputy Minister. I think even he will concede that. The only real motivation we seem to have had came from the hon. member for Potchefstroom, who gave us a long and sorry tale of everything that went on two years ago, in June 1972, at the time of the student unrests. He told us how the police had not observed certain procedures and that this in turn had led to the courts acquitting people on technical points. I think he will agree that I am summarizing fairly accurately what he said. I am glad to see that he agrees: He nods his head. What he told us, however, does not account for anything at all. In fact, he gave away his whole case. If the police in this instance did not observe the legal procedures, that is their affair. It was perfectly right for the courts to acquit the people concerned. As we know, this omission on the part of the police at the time was a very expensive business.
Mr. Speaker, may I ask the hon. member a question?
Not now, perhaps later, if I have the time. Only this morning we had details given to the House regarding the damages which had to be paid out in respect of arrests made at that time. These damages totalled something of the order of R24 000. The hon. member for Potchefstroom related these incidents directly to this legislation. He said—
Allowing for repetition, it is quite clear that what he was telling us was that those student problems were in fact the source of this legislation. What I want to tell him is that I believe that this is a cowardly way in which to try to get out of that trouble. We gave them the opportunity at the time to have this unrest properly examined. We gave them the opportunity by way of a special debate in this Chamber immediately after those disturbances. We gave them the opportunity of appointing a judicial commission to investigate this matter and to look into this whole question of unrest in public places, private places and in borderline areas, such as the Cathedral steps here in Cape Town.
That was not part of the motion.
Yes, it was. We wanted a judicial commission to investigate the whole matter. I suggest that the hon. member for Potchefstroom goes back and reads that debate, as I did this morning.
I remember it quite well.
But hon. members were not prepared to have that done then. Where they had the golden opportunity to have all the issues and all the problems examined by a judge, they did not use it. All we had at the time was a blank refusal by the hon. the Prime Minister. We all know, and I know from personal experience, that the hon. the Prime Minister has had bitter regrets about some of these judicial commissions. The judicial commission into the Land Bank, for example, did not make the findings he thought it would make; in fact, it landed him in considerable trouble. In all seriousness, why did they not do things properly then? This was an ideal opportunity to examine in detail this very delicate problem of unrest, not in public streets, but in private places which are seen by the public and which are open to the public. He did not take it; instead we had threats by the hon. the Prime Minister that legislation would come, legislation obviously drawn up in the most arbitrary fashion. That is what we have before the House this afternoon.
The lawyers have had their say on the finer points of this Bill. Let us just try to examine for the moment what this Bill really does. My colleague, the hon. member for Jeppes, has already indicated the extent and the wide admit of the application of this Bill, especially when one considers that “any gathering” may be prohibited by a magistrate in his district or, indeed, in any area specified by the Minister. He quoted Stroud’s judicial dictionary as defining the word “any” as a word which excludes limitation or qualification; it means as wide as possible. I wonder if any of the hon. members on the other side have bothered about the plain meaning of the word “any” as supplied by the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary gives several meanings to the word “any”, of which I shall give a few examples. It means “no matter which, of what kind or how many”. It also means “a quantity or number, however great or small”. It seems to me as though hon. members on that side of the House, to whom I do not want to be unfair, have confused the actual meaning of the English word “any” with the rather more restricted meaning of the Afrikaans word “enige”. “Enige” is more specific, but the English “any” has an immensely wide meaning.
It is a pity that the Minister is not listening to this.
He could not care less.
I trust that the hon. the Deputy Minister is going to reply to this point that I am making.
I am sorry, I was not listening now.
Well, I am sorry too, but at the risk of wasting a little of my time I shall repeat it. I saw that he was talking to the hon. member for Vereeniging at that stage. The hon. the Deputy Minister has heard the interpretation of “any” given by Stroud’s dictionary. Let me give him the Shorter Oxford Dictionary’s interpretation of the word “any”. “Any” means “no matter which, of what kind or how many”. That is one interpretation. A second one is “a quantity or number, however great or small”, and a third interpretation of the Shorter Oxford is “of any kind or sort whatever”. He will see that there is a substantial difference between the meaning of the English word “any” and the Afrikaans word “enige”, which is rather more limited in its meaning. I think this might have been the cause of some of the misunderstandings between us and the Government side.
What do you think the correct translation should be?
When we come to power we shall see that the translations are correct. Until then, in the few days left to this Government, we still expect them to produce the legislation and we reserve for ourselves the right to criticize it.
So you want to be negative and you do not want to be positive?
No, after the next election we shall have plenty of time to govern the country. We do not have to govern it in the few days remaining this session. I want to just mention a few other things about this Bill which really strike deeply into the hearts of lots of people. Never mind the legal terms and never mind the legal interpretations; we know what this Bill is setting out to do. So many speakers on that side of the House have tried to tell us that this is simply a measure to make the old Act more workable, more practicable, to make its working more efficient and quicker if necessary. But this is not the case. This Bill does introduce entirely new principles into the law. One principle is that it can affect private property, as my hon. friend for Durban North said, right down to the smallest flat. The hon. member for Pretoria Central interjected and said “nonsense”. He must still be swallowing his words. He knows as well as I do that it does apply to private property down to the smallest flat.
May I ask the hon. member a question?
No, not yet. As has been said, we are certainly not opposed to the granting of powers that are necessary for preserving public peace and order. What we are opposed to are incursions upon the privacy of our people. The hon. member for Vereeniging made great play a few moments ago about the fact that we stand for the rights of the individual. I make no bones about it and say quite unashamedly that I believe in the rights of the individual. I believe implicitly in them and that the duty of any Opposition, and of this Opposition in particular, is to protect those rights as much as is possible. [Time expired.]
In winding up the debate on this Bill on behalf of the official Opposition, I propose to crystallize and summarize the attitude of this side of the House to the Bill and, in doing so, to deal with some of the arguments which have been advanced by members on the other side of the House. The first point I wish to make is that every democratic country has legislation to prohibit riotous assemblies. We of the United Party agree with this. We consider it necessary because we feel it is vital to ensure public peace and order. At the same time we are not prepared to grant excessive powers to Ministers and to the Government. What do we mean by “excessive powers”? We mean what is said in paragraph (a) of our amendment, i.e. “powers which could result in unwarranted and unjustified interference in the private lives and rights of individuals to an extent not necessary for the maintenance of public peace and order”. I wish to emphasize the words “to an extent not necessary for the maintenance of public peace and order”. In other words, we believe in good government and a United Party Government would be a good Government, a Government which would not require excessive powers in order to govern properly and in order to maintain peace and order.
I should like to ask the hon. the Deputy Minister to tell the House quite clearly and unequivocally in his reply why this Government needs these additional powers in order to control or prohibit riotous assemblies, because neither he in introducing this Bill nor any Government speaker who has entered this debate has explained to us in convincing language and in clear terms why it is they require these powers. I should like to examine their attitude with the hon. the Deputy Minister. Is the Government’s case that it requires new powers because of the changed circumstances in the world today, including South Africa, circumstances which were referred to by the hon. member for Vereeniging a while ago? If that is so, if the Government convinces us that those powers are indeed necessary to meet those changed circumstances, we would be prepared to grant such powers to the Government because we have always granted to the Government such powers as we have been convinced are necessary for the maintenance of law and order in South Africa. Is the hon. the Deputy Minister’s case that the changed circumstances are such that assemblies, which can result in riots, are now taking place on private property and that therefore the Act as it is at present cannot meet that situation? Is that the Government’s case I hope the hon. the Deputy Minister will state in his reply, clearly and unequivocally, whether this is or is not the Government’s case. We can understand that the Government could be facing a problem in such a situation. We had an example in the situation which arose on the Cathedral steps, which were thought to be private property. As a result of the demonstration which took place there a situation developed which undoubtedly could have resulted in a riot had steps not been taken to curb it. If the Government’s case is that they wish to control not only assemblies which take place on public property, but also in defined circumstances—I emphasize the words “defined circumstances”—assemblies which take place on private property, but which could result in riots or riotous situations, let us debate this Bill on that basis. Let us have before the House amendments which deal with that situation, not the wide amendments which we have in this Bill.
We have also heard from a member on that side of the House—I think it was the hon. member for Bellville—that this whole Bill stems from the problems which the Government has had with the students. Apparently they have not been able to take the steps against the students which they would have wished to. What exactly does the Government mean by this? Does the Government mean that they do not wish to permit protest, or an assembly of people who, for example, want to criticize the Government or the laws or to suggest other laws in the place of those on the Statute Book? Apparently that is not the Government’s case because the hon. member for Bellville was at pains, as were other Government members who entered the debate, to say that the Government believes in protest. The actual words used were that they are for protest. In fact, the hon. member for Bellville went to great lengths to point out that the Nationalist Party, before it became the Government, protested about all sorts of matters. As I understand the Government’s case—the hon. the Deputy Minister will correct me if I am wrong—it is that it is a democratic process for citizens to be able to assemble to protest against laws and to suggest changes to these laws. So it cannot be that the Government wishes to ban all assemblies in case these should become riotous. They do not wish, as I understand the Government’s case, to go so far as to ban all assemblies. If they did, they would have introduced a Bill which would have said just that. So it boils down to the fact that it is a matter of degree as to what power the Government should have to control assemblies where they fear these could becomes riotous. This they wish to apply, as I understand the Government’s case, not only to public assemblies or to assemblies in public places, but also in certain cases to assemblies in private places. If that is the case of the Government, I hope the Deputy Minister will say precisely what problem they are facing. We were told that the problem arises from the case quoted by the hon. member for Bellville from Prentice-Hall, viz. the case of Turrell and Others v. the State. In this case an assembly which was to take place in a particular place was banned and the same people wished to assemble elsewhere. That sort of situation, according to the Government, is difficult for a magistrate to control. Now surely, if that is the problem faced by the Government, they will be able to deal with that situation in terms of the amendment introduced in the proposed new section 2(1) (b). The Minister will be able to deal with that situation as well in terms of the powers provided for in the new section 2 (3)(b). Why, as I have asked several Government members, does the Government require the powers that are contained in the new sections 2(l)(a) and 2(3)(a)? Mr. Speaker, hon. members on that side of the House do not seem to appreciate the wide powers given to the Minister in these two paragraphs. The hon. the Deputy Minister has said that we are misinterpreting the effect of the provisions of these two provisions. I should like to spend time on this aspect because I hope that in his reply the hon. the Deputy Minister will tell me where I am wrong in the interpretation that I am about to suggest to the House in regard to these two provisions.
The hon. the Deputy Minister pointed out quite correctly that before the powers granted to a magistrate and to the Minister in these two provisions can be exercised, in the case of the magistrate he must have reason to apprehend that the public peace will be seriously endangered. That is the first requisite. In the case of the Minister, He can only exercise these powers if he deems it necessary or expedient for the maintenance of public peace. I grant him both of these. In the case of the magistrate he must have reason to apprehend that the public peace will be seriously endangered and in the case of the Minister he must deem it necessary or expedient for the maintenance of the public peace. But now, Sir, what can he do once he has come to that conclusion? He can take one of two steps. Let us take the case of the magistrate first. If the magistrate is dealing with a particular gathering or a kind of gathering he will act under the provisions of the new section 2(1)(b). If he wants to tackle or prohibit or ban a particular gathering or any kind of gathering—that is to say a gathering of the same kind—he will act under the new section 2(l)(b). Mr. Speaker, what is the effect of the new section 2(1) (a)? It is clearly that where the Minister or the magistrate does not wish to deal with a specific gathering or a gathering of a particular kind but with all gatherings in a particular district, he will then act under section 2(1)(a). The hon. the Deputy Minister nods his head in agreement. What is the effect of this? If he bans any gathering in a particular district, it means all gatherings in a particular district. Again the hon. the Deputy Minister nods his head. What is the effect of this? What is the definition of “gathering”? The definition of “gathering” for the purposes of section 2(1)(a) is a gathering or concourse or procession of any number of persons having a common purpose, whether such purpose is lawful or unlawful. The hon. members on the other side of the House have suggested that because there is a reference to a common purpose, this will not include the type of gathering to which hon. members on this side have referred. Mr. Speaker, they are entirely wrong. If the hon. the Deputy Minister will look at the definition of “common purpose” in, for example, the case of Rex v. Lan, 1956 (2) S.A.L.R. 246 at page 251, he will see that this was a case where persons had met and that the object they wished to achieve in attending the meeting was to discuss their conditions of employment. The court held that this gave them a sufficient common purpose for the purposes of a similar definition. It is quite clear, Sir, that if there is a blanket ban on every gathering in a particular district under section 2(1)(a), it would prohibit the type of meeting referred to by the hon. member for Green Point, a meeting, for example, under the Industrial Conciliation Act; it would prohibit an ordinary board meeting of a company because these persons are meeting for a common purpose with a common object. Mr. Speaker, this Bill has not been properly thought out in respect particularly of the effect of the new sections 2(l)(a) and 2(3)(a), and I cannot see how there can be any other interpretation if you are going to read the provision as a whole, because as I have pointed out, section 2(1)(b) deals with specific meetings and meetings of a particular kind, so the sort of meeting which is referred to under section 2(l)(a) is not a specific meeting or a meeting of a particular kind. It is, in other words, intended to prohibit all gatherings in the district. Sir, if you prohibit all gatherings, then you prohibit all gatherings which come within that definition, and as I have pointed out, even if you read “gathering” for the purposes of section 2(1)(a) subject to the condition that there must be a common purpose between the persons assembled, this still does not exclude the type of gathering which has been referred to by this side of the House. It may well be that the hon. the Deputy Minister in his reply may say, “We do not intend to affect a board meeting of a company; we do not intend to affect an assembly under the Industrial Conciliation Act where persons are assembled to consider their wages, conditions of employment and so on; we do not intend to affect bridge parties”, to mention one example which has been given. But, Mr. Speaker, the point is that once the magistrate or the Minister has made a prohibition under section 2(1)(a) it means that every assembly of persons must then consider whether they fall within the definition of a gathering for the purposes of the Act or whether they do not. They may feel in some cases that they do not; that they are perfectly entitled to continue, despite that blanket ban by a magistrate or by the Minister. But, Sir, the attitude of the Government may be different, because with the exercise of the power of the new sections 2(1)(a) and 2(3)(a), there is no reference to any particular meeting. It is a blanket ban which refers to any gathering or meeting in that district which falls within the definition of a gathering for the purposes of the Act, so the persons who are gathered will then have the onus placed on them to decide, if they wish to continue with their assembly, whether or not they fall within the purview of the Act, and it is quite unreasonable and quite wrong to legislate in such a way as to place people in a situation of that sort where they do not know clearly whether or not they are able to continue with the gathering, and if they do decide to continue with a gathering because in their view it does not fall within the purview of the definition, they run the risk of being prosecuted and of having to justify their position in a court of law.
It has been suggested that the right of recourse to the courts which exists under the present Riotous Assemblies Act has not been in any way altered by the amendment introduced by the Deputy Minister. I think the hon. the Deputy Minister interjected to that effect. That is so, but I would point out to the Deputy Minister that those rights of recourse are extremely limited: One can only go on review and then only if one can show ultra vires because a discretion is given to the magistrate and to the Minister, and as the Minister will concede, I am sure, where one challenges a discretionary power one has to show that there is mala fides, that it has been exercised in bad faith.
I must be a judicially exercised discretion. That cannot be arbitrary.
I agree. I accept that is must be a judicially exercised discretion, but in practice, as the hon. the Deputy Minister will concede, one can only challenge such a decision in a court of law if one can show mala fides in the exercise of that discretion. As for the parliamentary review, that is so limited that it is worth very little. That is the first point I want to make in regard to the right of access to the courts.
The second point I wish to make is to point out that this limited right of recourse to the courts which exists at the present moment is now related to a much wider state of affairs, where the Minister and the magistrate are able to prohibit any gathering in a particular district. I wish therefore now to summarize our attitude by saying that if the Government is prepared to state clearly why they require additional powers for the exercise of the Riotous Assemblies Act, and in precisely what way the existing Act does not enable them to control the situation, and if we can be convinced that these powers are necessary, we would not hesitate to grant them to the Government. But we are not prepared to be a party to the granting to the Government of the unlimited powers asked for, especially in the proposed new sections 2(l)(a) and 2(3Xa), because neither the Deputy Minister nor any member on that side of the House has told the House why such wide powers are in fact necessary in order to control the situation. We therefore have no alternative but to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say right at the outset that in my humble opinion the last speaker, the hon. member for Musgrave, stated the Opposition’s case so clearly that the other members of the Opposition who also participated in this debate will pardon me if I proceed almost immediately to dispose of the hon. member for Musgrave’s arguments first and then return to a few aspects raised by the other hon. members.
They said very little.
Yes, I must admit that they said very little. I must thank hon. members on this side of the House for the contributions they made. In reality they replied to everything which needed replying to. I am only rising because it is expected of me as the Deputy Minister concerned to participate in the debate and to try to satisfy hon. members of the Opposition in regard to this Bill.
The hon. member for Musgrave asked me to tell them unequivocally why these powers are necessary. I am surprised that this question was put to me; yet it is not an unfair question. I say that I am surprised that it was put to me for each and every one of us sitting in this House is aware of the crucial question which exists in the Republic of South Africa in the year 1974 and in this month in which we now find ourselves. It ought not to be news to the hon. members, and for that reason, too, I asked the hon. member for Durban North by way of an interjection that he should ask his bench-fellow to enlighten him.
How could he?
my having very much wanted him to communicate the evidence of the Schlebusch Commission was taken extremely amiss of me. I did not expect it, but what I did in fact expect from a member of the Schlebusch Commission was that he should be aware of the answer to that question, as I have become aware of it over the past six months from the two reports submitted by the commission. Without saying what is contained in the two reports, I can say that I am almost astounded that the hon. member for Green Point also opposes this Bill. Surely he is aware of the truly crucial questions which unfolded in that evidence. [Interjections.] What is the position? I want to enlighten the House on this matter in an honest way. As Deputy Minister I find myself in the position that I receive all the evidence by way of reports, although I do not of course know whether it was given as evidence or not. However, I receive enough information in my office to cause me to feel that it would be irresponsible of me if I did not at this juncture request these powers. What is the position in brief? The position is that the key word in our time is “change”. Let me say at once that if there were ever a party which was in favour of an intelligent march forward into the future, changes and all, then it is this side of the House. This National Party has shown the entire world that it does not cling dogmatically to what belongs to the past, except of course principles. We do not change our principles. We live with a view to the future and we find solutions to the problems staring us in the face. As far as “change” is concerned, it is therefore not a foreign word to this side of the House. However, one now finds all sorts of other kinds of change. One finds a frustrated attempt at change on the part of the other side of the House, which has now gone-over to a change—not from Opposition members but from opposition to this Government—which is associated with force and which is aimed at overthrowing the entire system of government in South Africa. In that movement to bring about change by force there are two legs, or two arms. Firstly, there is a non-communistic arm which is fed by humanists, idealists and what have you from overseas, people who are trying to stick their noses into the workings of South Africa and the solution of its problems. They want to offer us solutions which they think are the right kind of solutions for our circumstances. They are, in the first place then, the advocates of that kind of change. I may say that there are also people who have decided that the change must now take place by force. For that reason the World Council of Churches, a so-called Christian body, is voting so many thousands of rand for assistance to terrorists. They would also like to have change, but they want to bring it about by force. For that form of change they have made common cause with the communists. I am the last person who would look for a communist under every bed for I know that there is a very small group of communists. All that these communists are doing is to propel and lead these humanists, these persons who want to bring about change by force. They are quite satisfied if only they can get their hands on the reins. The members need not be communists; they may be innocent liberalists, just as long as they can steer the course of events. Those people make use of anyone. They use the churches where they can, they use the universities where they can, they use words such as “democracy” and they use those things which are dear to Westerners. All those concepts they use to achieve their criminal object.
I want to say at once to hon. members that I am not obsessed with wringing the necks of little children who would like to protest, but there was a perfect example of the so-called “Berkeley invention” which spread from Berkeley University in America to other places. This “Berkeley invention” was stirred up by communists such as Red Dan in Paris and it spread throughout the world. What was the “Berkeley invention”? It was: “Sit down, hitch on to a lawful grievance.” It may be only a minor grievance. If people strike you with clubs because of it, the entire world must be half astounded and say: “But, goodness me, can they strike people because of that?” In Paris the issue was the classes. On the Berkeley campus they were dissatisfied with minor administrative matters at the university, and this gave rise to a great protest. The purpose behind it all was Marcosian. The philosopher Marcus incited them to create a situation of anarchy. They lodged protest after protest until the student masses wandered about like wild people looking for blood. The whole idea behind this movement was not necessarily a communist take-over; it was aimed at creating total anarchy. The perfect example we had of this was in this city when these little children who go to school up on the hill there held a protest meeting. We could have cleaned it up with a sweep of the hand, but these little children came here to complain about the education of non-Whites—which was a completely innocent request. It was a very fine ideal, but what were they trying to achieve with it? They hoped the police would come, they hoped an anarchistic situation would arise and they hoped that it would spread from one campus to another. They hoped that they could in this way cause a Black/White polarization, and they hoped that they could also involve the Black people in this. They hoped that the flames would spread so that anarchy could arise in South Africa as it did in California and in Paris. They hoped that they could go to the barricades, and then hon. members ask me why it is necessary at this stage to streamline this legislation. I shall tell them why. I am still coming to the hon. member for Houghton.
I am waiting quietly.
The hon. member levelled an accusation at me, and I am still coming to her. I want to say briefly that our Police Force and our Defence Force in our beloved Fatherland stand absolutely prepared to avert the physical threat which has broken through from Moçambique and which is moving down towards the Kruger National Park. South Africa is the objective. We are saddled with a situation in Rhodesia at Centenary and other places where terrorists who murder people in the cruellest way have to be eradicated. What is the object of those people?—The heart of South Africa. These are the changers-by-force. We voted money here for the Army and formed the Army; we sent our police to Rhodesia to defend our outposts. However, when we say: “Set matters in order at home”, we find an Opposition that asks: “Why do we we want to streamline the Act?” [Interjections.] I want to tell the hon. member for Mooi River that they are still very innocent, but does he know what those people have in mind for him and for all of us? They just want to soften you up; they want you to adopt the standpoint you have adopted today. You must become soft and weak-willed, and we must quarrel with one another so that they can then accomplish the things they want to accomplish. I want to state unequivocally in this House this afternoon that no matter how weak and confused the Opposition is in its standpoint, we thank Providence that this side of the House knows what these matters are all about. We know what security for Blacks and for Whites in South Africa, for the entire South Africa, is all about. I have not sketched this picture to frighten people, but I have no doubt at all that the victory will go to this Government so that we will have peace and prosperity here in South African and so that we will be able to continue to develop as a stable country. As it happens we are virtually the only stable country left in the world, but this is because we act timeously and purposefully—hon. members may perhaps not like the word—to safeguard our Fatherland from the evil forces that are trying to undermine us.
May I ask the hon. the Deputy Minister a question? The hon. the Minister has explained to us the changed circumstances, but will he please explain to us why he cannot deal with riotous assemblies under the changed circumstances with the law as it exists at the moment?
If the hon. member would give me an opportunity, I am coming to that. He is anticipating what I am going to say. This is the general situation in the outside world and in South Africa. What has happened now? We put a stop to the activities of the students here, and on the Witwatersrand as well. The people in London, specifically Joe Slovo—if hon. members now want to know who is stirring things up there in London, I can mention quite a number of other names of others as well who are doing this—dicided that the students were inadequate to the task. Perhaps we are surprised because strikes are occurring every now and again in Durban. However, these people have now decided that strikes must be arranged so that the Black people can demand higher wages. Let me say at once what the standpoint of this side of the house is, which the hon. the Prime Minister as also stated, viz. that people should receive a fair wage for fair labour. However, that is not the only object there. I am not saying it is our Black people, because it is not them—they are too innocent for that—but there are people in South Africa who would like to incite those people and cause them to strike and want them to make repeated demands and succeed in achieving with the strikes what they could not achieve here with the students. These people will achieve no success whatsoever, but we would be blind if we did not recognize this. We would be irresponsible if we did not obtain the necessary powers in time so that we can combat the situation wherever it crops up.
Now hon. members are asking me why the Act should be changed. Fortunately for us the students ran to the courts, for those court cases indicated indisputably that this Act is archaic and that there are certain defects which do not adapt to the present situation in South Africa and that it has become essential for us to streamline this Act, for if more and possibly more serious disturbances come, we will be in a better position to take more rapid action and also to act lawfully. I should like to say to the hon. member for Houghton—who told us here so very piously and in extravagant terms, almost with a laugh in her voice, that we had had to pay a lot of money—that it was clearly paid for money which we paid and that is why we have come forward with this Bill. We do not constantly want to act unlawfully. We should like to act lawfully, but we should also like to stop unlawful actions. What was the problem in the Turrell case? The problem there was that a “gathering” was regarded as a gathering of not fewer than 12 persons. Consequently one could find people milling about so that one did not know when they were part of the public and when they were part of the gathering. One never knew when they were going to change their positions. We had here the ridiculous situation where two or three persons stood on the church steps. It is truly a disgrace that they stood on the church steps! Only a Christian person can feel hurt because the church steps had, of all places to be sought out for this kind of thing. They sought out the church steps and milled around so that there were never more than 11 persons on the steps. For that reason surely we had to change the Act. Surely we had to make it “any gathering”. Surely we could do nothing else. Hon. members will recall that the present Act states that the police shall call out three times, shall warn people three times. They must also give them some time to disperse. At the same time they must, over and above the need to do those things three times, also make a threat of counter-violence. In other words, one must further stir up an already stirred-up situation and make these people even angrier. I say it would be wrong to leave the legislation as it is. That is why we have deleted it from the Statute Book. In all honesty I want to say that surely it is not necessary to call out six times that people should disperse because they are creating a dangerous situation of unrest. Surely twice is enough. We are all able to understand English and Afrikaans and if the police have told us to disperse within five minutes, we must know that after five minutes the clubs will begin to swing. Surely we should know this automatically. Why is it necessary for it to be stipulated in an Act? That is why we are changing the Act.
Now the hon. member for Durban North is complaining that we are going to interfere in the private lives of people. Because “public gathering” is going to disappear and only “gathering” remain, we are now going to interfere in the private lives of people. I have the hon. member’s Hansard here, and in his own speech he said—
But he was putting my case for me. It is precisely the case that a public gathering can overflow into private property. It may even begin on private property and move to public property. Why should I not then be able to stop all the gatherings? If such an unholy gathering can commence on private property and overflow to public property, why should we then make it a “public gathering”? Surely that is why this definition should be changed and why there should only be a reference to “gathering”.
If I were to provide an amendment which meets the situation, would you accept it?
It is not necessary to do that, and I shall prove it to the hon. member. I only hope that he will understand it—that is the great difficulty.
But first I just want to come to the amendment of the hon. member for Durban North. By way of this amendment he challenged me to co-operate with him a little, which I shall in fact do. What does he state in his amendment? Inter alia the following—
Let me spend a little time on the word “arbitrary”. I specifically asked the hon. member for Musgrave whether he thought that “arbitrary action” was contained in this Bill. The hon. member was honest enough to say this to me: “No, it does not suggest arbitrary judgment.” Now this hon. member, who always carries on to the nth degree in this House, says that everything is arbitrary. If a magistrate holds a well-considered opinion in this regard, it is arbitrary; if a Minister dares say “But there are going to be disturbances here”, it is arbitrary, according to the hon. member for Durban North.
Mr. Speaker, on a point of explanation, the hon. the Deputy Minister misunderstood what I said. I maintain that the amendment…
Order. The hon. member cannot take the floor unless it is given. He must ask permission first. The hon. member may proceed.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think the hon. the Deputy Minister misinterpreted what I said if he believes that I said that the amendments did not go so far as to amount to the granting of arbitrary powers.
That is all I am asking the hon. member to concede, that it does not go so far as to grant arbitrary powers. Because this is the allegation made by the hon. member for Durban North.
I do not concede it at all.
Where are the arbitrary powers? Show them to me. When I asked the hon. member where the arbitrary powers were, he said there were no arbitrary powers.
I refer you to the proposed new subsections (1) and (3)
No, Sir, I have a hard time with such people. Now the hon. member is blowing hot and cold again. Let us examine their difficulty. Let us look at their problems immediately. I am going to read the proposed section 2(1) in English for the convenience of hon. members opposite—
Sir, this is a very important principle, and now the hon. member keeps on telling me that we are violating the principle of the Act. We have not done this. The principle of the legislation is contained in the phrase “that the public peace would be seriously endangered”. Please note, it is “seriously endangered”; it is not something which is merely trivial. I continue—
- (a) by any gathering in his district; or
- (b) by a particular gathering… he may prohibit for a period not exceeding 48 hours every gathering…
Now I just want to ask hon. members to return to the definition of “gathering”. They will note that the magistrate and the Minister may prohibit two kinds of gatherings. The magistrate may prohibit any gathering in his district, or he may prohibit specific gatherings. The prohibition on gatherings falls under paragraph (a), and those gatherings must all have a common purpose.
Oh, Sir, here an hon. friend is waking up now, but he will simply have to listen; then he will understand what is happening here. A “common purpose” is laid down in our administration of justice as “a common objective plus a concerted action”. Those are the two provisos.
A honeymoon couple in a hotel.
The hon. member must first find a seat before he can speak here. When it comes to that “common purpose” in this Bill, that “concerted action”, it must be a “concerted action” which could possibly disturb the public peace.
†This must be so. This common purpose is a common purpose embodied in this Bill. The common purpose here must be of such a nature that—
so that the concerted action must be an action which may bring about the disruption of the peace. This must be so. If that is so, it cannot apply to bridge parties.
*But, Sir it is not I who said this. I am going to refer the hon. member to the Appeal Court finding in the case Rex v. Kahn. 1955 (3), page 177. I am reading only the heading—
that is a common purpose—
†Now it states—
this is what the Appeal Court states—
This is an Appellate Division decision in which the two ingredients of common purpose are embodied, common purpose in terms of this Bill. Here the Appeal Court tells us categorically—
I cannot give the hon. member better authority than the Appellate Division of South Africa. He can be assured that his bridge parties will be immune from the provisions of this Bill and the hon. member for Houghton can still go and play klawerjas.
May I ask a question?
I shall answer all the hon. members’ queries. He simply wants to ask again the same questions he asked during his speech.
*I just want to tell the hon. members this. They told us time and again that the Ministers’ powers are arbitrary. Since 1962, however, the Minister has had the power to impose a general prohibition, a general prohibition. This was in terms of section 2(3) ter. What evidence is there that these powers were ever abused? They have frequently been used, and particulars have been tabled here. As far as we know, Mr.Speaker, the Opposition has never objected to this. Why are they objecting to it now?
Public places only.
I have just proved to hon. members opposite that it cannot be altogether in private, and hon. members proved to me that it is necessary in private areas. That is what they proved for me. With that, Sir, I think I have covered hon. members’ objections to this Bill.
There are a few other aspects on which I should like to say a few words. The hon. member for Houghton put specific questions to me. I shall furnish her with a reply to these in a moment. The hon. member for Durban North said that there was a “fundamental change”. Mr. Speaker, there is no fundamental change here. We just have the minor extension that in an area such as a district there may be a total prohibition on gatherings. That is the only change that has been effected. As the hon. member for Durban North said, this is a very necessary change. I do not think there is anything else which the hon. member for Durban North said to which I should reply.
The hon. member for Florida said literally nothing. I just want to tell him this. He will pardon me if I, as his senior advocate, simply give him this piece of advice. I am not angry at him; I am doing this in all fondness. When he was elucidating the provisions of the Bill according to his submissions and according to his views—which I respect, but he was wrong-—one of the other advocates, also his senior, made an interjection. The hon. member for Florida then said that he would give the hon. member who had made the interjection a lecture on law. I just want to tell him that the lecture on law which he wanted to give that advocate was unfortunately incorrect. The hon. member for Florida misinterpreted the Bill. Apparently my hon. friend obtained his LL.B. last year or the year before, and I think that was a wonderful effort. I think, however, that the cases which he has had he can count on the fingers of two hands. I just want to tell him that, when all is said and done, modesty, particularly in the advocate’s profession, will take him the furthest. He should rather not give other advocates lectures. He needs a great deal of experience to do that.
I should now like to discuss a few matters with the hon. member for Houghton. She took it amiss of me for having—and I did do it, Mr. Speaker—after I had given notice of the Bill on Friday—I did not give the Bill to anyone—furnished two Afrikaans newspapers with particulars. Upon inquiry I furnished particulars to Die Transvaler and Die Burger and to an English newspaper that Sunday afternoon, I think it was to The Natal Mercury. I also told one of the reporters here in the House that he could come and see me in my office. I wanted to give them the particulars and I did so. The reason for my doing so was precisely in order to try and keep the nonsense which we have had to listen to here in this House this afternoon—that we are interfering in the private rights of individuals—out of the public Press. I was very desirous, after I have given notice—that the Press should know precisely what was stated in the Bill so that they could write a decent report for the general public, so that the public would not be stampeded when the Second Reading debate began here. The hon. member for Houghton took it amiss of me for not having given it to her. I owe her nothing and she owes me nothing. She is a member of Parliament and she could have found the Bill here on the Table, or she could have asked me for it…
How could I?
She could have asked me for it and I would have given it to her, in exactly the same way as I gave it to both the English-language and the Afrikaans-language Press and as I also gave it to other people.
It was not tabled until Tuesday.
She could have asked me what the content of the Bill was, and I would have taken the trouble, because she is a member of this Parliament, of having had a photostatic copy of my copy made, and I would have given it to her.
Sir, that may well be. But now I know in any case that I must not give her anything in future.
The hon. member told me categorically that I had insulted this Parliament. Surely she knows her rights. I stand under correction, just as does any other member of this House. Why, Sir, did the hon. member not subject me to your ruling? Why did the hon. member not tell me that I had insulted the Speaker, and then surely I would have had to appear before you? What insinuations is she making? I think it is a disgrace that she should do something like this. If the hon. member wanted to have taken the trouble, even if she had gone to Mr. Speaker behind my back, she would have found out that I had not done anything wrong.
I would not do such a thing; that is just the difference between us.
She put the question to me: “If people are found guilty of protesting against a law, are they guilty under the General Law Amendment Act? Sir, I have the Act here in my hand and I want to tell her that the provision in this Bill is precisely the same as the provision under the old Act. There is no difference, and they are guilty of that if they are found guilty under one Act.
So they are liable?
They are in exactly the same position as they were before. I am not here to give legal advice; the hon. member can go somewhere else for legal advice. There is no change in this position; that is all I can tell the hon. member.
Why don’t you answer my question?
Of course they are liable if they are found guilty under another Act.
Then say so.
Sir, must I really spoon-feed the hon. member with everything? Surely she can look after herself.
Why are you so shy about it?
No, I am not shy about it; it is stated in the Statute Book. Sir, I just want to say this to the hon. member as well: I accept that she is not guilty of this idea of change by force, but I want to tell her that she should be careful, for these people will use anyone…
I am not such an idiot.
… and particularly if she has representation in Parliament, and then they will try to use her. As a responsible member of this House she should realize that what is at stake here is this entire institution, and she ought to have precisely the same feeling for this institution as we all have for it. That is all I want to say to her.
Don’t worry about me.
Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is anything else that I have to say. If hon. members want to know anything else, I shall gladly reply to their questions. I think that I have replied to all the points which were raised here. I just want to say that I am glad that we are able to pass this amendment before the general election, for one does not know when people of this kind are going to hit out during an election and then the police have to be prepared. I am pleased to be able to say that I think this Bill will help them to be prepared, and if they still make mistakes, then I want to say to the hon. member for Houghton now that if mistakes are made and if the court again points out our mistakes to us, we will return to this House again with another amendment because we must give the police that power.
Question put: That the words “the Bill be” stand part of the motion,
Upon which the House divided:
Ayes—89: Aucamp, P. L. S.; Baden-horst, P. J.; Bodenstein, P.; Botha, G. F.; Botha, H. J.; Botha, L. J.; Botha, P. W.; Botha, R. F.; Botha, S. P.; Coetsee, H. J.; Coetzee. S. F.; De Klerk, F. W.; Du Plessis, A. H.; Du Plessis, G. F. C.; Du Toit, J. P.; Engelbrecht, J. J.; Erasmus, A. S. D.; Greyling, J. C.; Grobler, M. S. F.; Grobler, W. S. J.; Hartzenberg, F.; Hayward, S. A. S.; Henning, J. M.; Herman, F.; Hoon, J. H.; Horn, J. W. L.; Jurgens, J. C.; Keyter, H. C. A.; Koornhof, P. G. J.; Kotzé, W. D.; Kruger, J. T.; Le Grange, L.; Le Roux, F. J. (Brakpan); Le Roux, F. J. (Hercules); Le Roux, J. P.C.; Loots,J. J.; Louw, E.; Malan, G. F.; Malan, J. J.; Marais, P. S.; Maree, G. de K.; McLachlan, R.; Morrison, G. de V.; Mulder, C. P.; Muller, H.; Muller, S. L.; Munnik, L. A. P. A.; Nel, D. J. L.; Nel, J. A. F.; Otto, J. C.; Pansegrouw, J. S.; Pienaar, L. A.; Potgieter, J. E.; Potgieter, S. P.; Rall, J. J.; Rall, J. W.; Raubenheimer. A. J.; Reyneke, J. P. A.; Rossouw, W. J. C.; Roux, P. C.; Schlebusch, A. L.; Schlebusch, J. A.; Schoeman, B. J.; Smit, H. H.; Swanepoel, J. W. F.; Swiegers, J. G.; Treurnicht, A. P.; Van Breda, A.; Van der Merwe, C. V.; Van der Merwe, H. D. K.; Van der Merwe, P. S.; Van der Merwe, S. W.; Van der Spuy, S. J. H.; Van der Walt, H. J.D.; Van Heerden, R. F.; Van Tonder, J. A.; Van Vuuren, P. Z. J.; Van Wyk, A. C.; Venter, W. L. D. M.; Viljoen, M.; Viljoen, P. J. van B.; Volker, V. A.; Vorster, B. J.; Vorster, L. P. J.; Wentzel, J. J. G.
Tellers: W. A. Cruywagen, S. F. Kotzé, G. P. van den berg and H. J. van Wyk.
Noes—40: Basson, J. D. du P.; Baxter, D. D.; Bronkhorst, H. J.; Deacon, W. H. D.; De Villiers, I. F. A.; Emdin, S.; Fisher, E. L.; Graaff, De V.; Hickman, T.; Hopewell, A.; Hourquebie, R. G. L.; Hughes, T. G.; Jacobs, G. F.; Kingwill, W. G.; Malan, E. G.; Marais, D. J.; Miller, H.; Mitchell, D. E.; Mitchell, M. L.; Moolman, J. H.; Murray, L. G.; Oldfield, G. N.; Oliver, G. D. G.; Pyper, P. A.; Raw, W. V.; Smith, W. J. B.; Stephens. J. J M.; Streicher, D. M.; Suzman, H.; Timoney, H. M.; Van den Heever, S. A.; Van Eck, H. J.; Van Hoogstraten, H. A.; Von Keyserlingk, C. C.; Wainwright, C. J. S.; Wiley, J. W. E.; Winchester, L. E. D.; Wood, L. F.
Tellers: W. M. Sutton and J. O. N. Thompson.
Question affirmed and amendment proposed by Mr. M. L. Mitchell dropped.
Mr. Speaker then put the Question: That the word “now” stand part of the motion, and a division demanded.
Fewer than four members (viz. Mrs. H. Suzman) having supported the demand for a division, Question declared affirmed and amendment proposed by Mrs. H. Suzman dropped.
Main Question accordingly agreed to.
Bill read a Second Time.
Mr. Speaker, I move—
Interference on the internal political scene of foreign countries is universally condemned. If that interference comes from a foreign Government, it is looked upon as an unfriendly act. Foreign financial assistance for the furtherance of any particular political view, is also covered by this principle. This matter is already in part covered by section 3 of the Prohibition of Political Interference Act, 1968. Amongst others, political parties are prohibited in that section from receiving money for political purposes from outside the Republic. But now there are various organizations in South Africa engaging in national and even international politics although they are not political parties. They are active in the extra-parliamentary political field. In itself that is all very well, but now they do so in co-operation with foreign organizations and persons trying to achieve their own political ends by using the South African organizations. That is their reason for supporting the local organizations not only with ideological guidance but with foreign propaganda and also financially. Large sums of money are regularly sent quite openly to various South African organizations and it is seen to that the money is spent in accordance with the wishes of the overseas donors. These donors are often people who also support the terrorists on our borders. They try to realize their plans for South Africa by supporting armed terrorist aggression against us with the one hand and by bringing to bear ideological and financial influence on our internal political scene with the other. We defend our borders against armed aggression. We must also defend our borders against political aggression. This Bill supplements the existing measures aimed at preventing foreign financial interference in our domestic political affairs.
Clause 1 contains definitions and does not call for comment.
Clause 2(1) gives the State President the power to declare an organization to be an affected organization if he is satisfied that politics are being engaged in by or through that organization in co-operation with or under the influence of a foreign organization or person. This he can only do after the Minister of Justice has given consideration to a factual report by a committee consisting of three magistrates. At least one of them must be a chief magistrate or a regional magistrate. This procedure is similar to the requirements of the Suppression of Communism Act, 1950. Section 17 of that Act also calls for a factual report by a committee of three, one of whom must be at least a senior magistrate, before an organization can be declared to be an unlawful organization. In practice three magistrates are appointed to such committees.
Clause 2(2) prohibits the canvassing of foreign money and the receipt of and bringing into the Republic of foreign money for or on behalf of an affected organization.
Clause 2(3) deals with foreign money already in the possession of an affected organization when it is declared as such. Such money is frozen in the possession of the organization for one year. Within that time it may be donated by the owners thereof to a registered welfare organization or any other organization approved by the Minister. If it is not disposed of in this manner, it can be confiscated to the State by way of the Supreme Court proceedings provided for in clause 4.
Clause 3 provides for the appointment of a Registrar of affected Organizations. He is given powers making it possible for him to investigate the financing of an affected organization. At the end of every financial year of each affected organization, the Registrar must report to the Minister on the money received and paid out by the organization during that year. The Minister in turn reports to Parliament.
Clause 4 provides for the attachment and confiscation of money dealt with or about to be dealt with in contravention of the Act and money in possession of an affected organization. This happens by way of Supreme Court proceedings. Put very briefly, the court acts on the sworn statement of the Registrar of Affected Organizations in which he expresses a suspicion or alleges that certain money is money involved in an offence under the Act. Persons having an interest in the money are given an opportunity to prove the contrary before the court confiscates the money or makes some other appropriate order.
Clause 5 is the penalty clause. There is no minimum penalty but the maximum penalty for contravening the provisions dealing with the receipt and handling of foreign money for affected organizations is high: R10 000 or five years’ imprisonment for a first offence and R20 000 or ten years’ imprisonment for subsequent offences. This will allow the courts to deal suitably with a wide range of possible offenders under the Act: From the man who has a small, perhaps inadvertent, part in a transaction involving an insignificant sum, to the big financier engaging in illegal transfers of money for profit and the professional political saboteur.
Clause 6 provides for the appointment of an authorized officer to investigate an organization if the Minister suspects that it should be declared an affected organization. This authorized officer has the power to enter upon premises, demand documents, ask for explanations and question persons in the course of his investigation. A person questioned is entitled to the privileges of a witness in the Supreme Court. The powers of this authorized officer are comparable to that of an authorized officer investigating a suspect organization under section 7 of the Suppression of Communism Act, 1950. The result of his inquiries will enable the Minister to decide whether he should call for a factual report from a committee of magistrates.
Clause 7 deals with offences relating to the inquiries of an authorized officer and clause 8 with the committee of magistrates which I have already dealt with.
Mr. Speaker, it is a remarkable state of affairs that our Parliament has come to that the hon. the Deputy Minister in the light of the history of the subject matter of this Bill, which I shall deal with, should introduce this Bill today when as everyone knows, and as I shall demonstrate, the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Organizations, known popularly as the Schlebusch Commission, has been intensely investigating for some two years the subject matter of this Bill. It has been investigating the subject matter of each clause in this Bill as I shall demonstrate. Yet we find ourselves here this afternoon without that report before us when we know, as I shall also demonstrate, that the report in respect of Nusas was with the Government in December last year and it would appear that the report on the Institute of Race Relations was with the Government in January this year. I hope the hon. the Prime Minister will be here, because I think it is he who has to carry the can. It is he who is responsible for the state of affairs in which we now find ourselves in South Africa in relation to this matter, a state of affairs which we as a Parliament are embarrassed by and a state of affairs in respect of which certain members of this House are placed in an invidious and an impossible position as I shall demonstrate.
This Bill started in 1972 when the hon. the Prime Minister proposed that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the objects, organization, activities, financing and related matters of Nusas the Institute of Race Relations, the University Christian Movement, the Christian Institute of Southern Africa and their subordinate organizations. Hon. members will recall what happened. In this House the hon. the Prime Minister moved that that select committee be appointed. Our attitude was that we would have preferred a judicial commission to inquire into these bodies, but that if a select committee was to be appointed we would serve on that select committee. What did the hon. the Prime Minister say? The hon. the Prime Minister said that this House is the highest council in the country and that it could institute a fact-finding inquiry. This is what he said in Hansard, Vol. 37, col. 724 on 10 February 1972—
I want to say, and I hope the hon. the Prime Minister will come in because I want to say it to him as he is the one who can answer, that his action in not placing those reports on the Table of the House is very close to a contempt of Parliament when this Bill is before us. As he says, it is in that respect certainly much worse than in respect of the hon. members here who sit on that commission, as I shall demonstrate. What does the hon. the Prime Minister go on to say?—
Concerning the allegation that Nusas “stinks”, he went on to say—
Then comes, I think, the most important part of this passage. He says—
Those are the most important words there. In other words, what the hon. the Prime Minister was saying was that it was for Parliament to investigate the facts—through a select committee at that time, a select committee which was changed into a commission because it could not finish its work during the session. He was saying that Parliament should investigate it and that Parliament—not the select committee or the commission—should then judge whether in fact there was something wrong with these organizations and their finances, and if it found that there was, it was up to Parliament to do something about it.
But they think the Government is Parliament.
The hon. the Prime Minister also said (col. 727)—
He is not saying it has a right to do so, but he is saying positively that this Parliament has the responsibility, not only to look into these organizations, but, in fact, to pass judgment upon them and, if it deems fit, to do something about them. This is the fact-finding committee which has reported to the Government, but where is the report, where are the facts and where are the recommendations?
When is this House going to get that report? Is this another broken promise on the part of this Government? We are now asked to deal with a Bill, every clause of which must have been the subject of inquiry by the Schlebusch Commission. Why is that report not here? The hon. the Deputy Minister cannot tell me because, in the debate we had on the previous Bill, he told the House that he had not read the report and did not know anything about it. Therefore he cannot help us. The only person who can help us is the hon. the Prime Minister. He is the person in charge of this.
Where is he?
I understand that he is likely to be here.
He is taking a last putt.
Sir, you will recall that the Select Committee could not finish its work and that it was changed into a Commission, the terms of reference of that Commission were—
various organizations I have mentioned—
I am glad the hon. the Prime Minister is here; because I was saying that, in fact, what has to be said about the Bill can only be answered by the hon. the Prime Minister. When the hon. the Prime Minister was not here, I was making the point that the subject matter of this Bill was also the subject matter of the investigation by the Schlebusch Commission. The Schlebusch Commission submitted one report last year. The Nusas report was submitted to the hon. the Prime Minister. So far as one can believe from what one has seen in newspapers regarding statements by the chairman of that Commission, the one on the Institute of Race Relations was placed before the Government in January. We are now being asked, as a Parliament, to look at a Bill, the contents of which were the subject matter of investigation by that Commission, without the hon. the Prime Minister having laid that report on he Table for Parliament to look at. I quoted the hon. the Prime Minister’s statements at the time when he moved the appointment of a select committee to look into these bodies. The hon. the Prime Minister said then that to suggest that members of Parliament could not be fact-finders, bordered closely on contempt of Parliament, and most certainly, contempt of hon. members.
What is your argument?
The hon. the Prime Minister went on to say that it was for Parliament to decide, when it had all the facts, whether anything should be done about these organizations; and if so, then Parliament should do something about it. That is what the hon. the Prime Minister promised at the time.
What is your difficulty?
The difficulty is simply that that Commission has reported to the hon. the Prime Minister. The hon. the Prime Minister has two reports. He received one last year and one in January. Is that correct?
Good. Now we are asked here to deal with a Bill, the contents of which are precisely the matters which were investigated by the Schlebusch Commission.
Certain aspects, yes.
Yes, but certain very important aspects. As I shall demonstrate, more than just important aspects. I shall go through the Bill and demonstrate that almost every clause is, or would probably have been, the subject of investigation by that Commission.
I would like to hear you on the merits of the clauses.
The hon. the Prime Minister will hear me. But I want the hon. the Prime Minister to be under no misapprehension. What I said when he was not here—I would not like to say anything about him when he is not here that I cannot say when he is here—was that it comes very close to being a contempt of Parliament to ask Parliament to allow this Bill to come before us without having given Parliament the opportunity of seeing the report on the very subject matter of this Bill.
I want to say something else that I said before. The hon. the Prime Minister, by allowing this state of affairs, has placed certain members of this House in the most invidious position. He has almost muzzled them. He has put them in the position where if they speak on this Bill, knowing what they know, they might disclose something they know which they are not, in terms of the law, entitled to disclose, until those reports are placed on the Table of the House.
Have you read the first interim report?
I have. I have read the first, the second, and parts of the third.
Have you read the recommendation in that report?
I have, and I shall remind the hon. the Prime Minister about it. It does not alter the fact of the matter that until that report is placed on the Table of this House, the hon. members here are muzzled.
That report has been placed on the Table.
The first and second interim reports have been placed on the Table, as well as the third one. The final report has not been placed on the Table.
The subject matter of the Bill has been dealt with in that interim report.
I cannot fall for that one. The fact of the matter is this. Will the hon. the Prime Minister concede that in terms of those regulations that were published in respect of that commission the position now is that until that report is laid on the Table nobody may disclose the contents of it? Indeed, Sir, if one did disclose the contents of that report one would be committing an offence in terms of those regulations. Does the hon. the Prime Minister really want to place hon. members of this House in that position? The very persons who should be giving this House the benefit of their advice in this regard, the very gentlemen who have spent two years of very hard and long labour dealing with this very subject, are faced with this dilemma. We now have this bizarre situation where the hon. the Prime Minister allows a Bill to be introduced dealing with what that Commission was investigating and the members of the Commission who know what it is about, who have had the experience of this investigation, are muzzled. They cannot talk in this House for fear that they may disclose something that is in the report and therefore commit an offence.
Why not argue on the basis of the report that has already been published on this subject?
No, Sir, the reports already published do not deal with the matter to this extent.
It deals with the principle of the Bill.
Let us have a look at the merits of what the hon. the Prime Minister has said. That does not matter. Even if the hon. the Prime Minister were right, which he is not,…
Tell me where I am wrong.
I shall tell the hon. gentleman where he is wrong about this, but I want to tell the hon. the Prime Minister something else. My point about the hon. members in this House remains unaltered by the fact that three interim reports have been tabled. The fact of the matter is that right at this moment, until the hon. the Prime Minister tables those reports, the hon. members who are members of the Schlebusch Commission cannot disclose anything that has happened or that they know as a result of their investigations into the Schlebusch Commission inquiry. Does the hon. the Prime Minister concede that?
Are you prepared to accept the report in one language only on this delicate matter? [Interjections.]
I want to make my point, Sir. I wish to quote the following regulation in regard to the Schlebusch Commission—
No person shall, except in so far as it is necessary in the execution of the terms of reference of the Commission, publish or furnish the report of the Commission or a copy or part thereof to any other person unless and until the report has been laid on the Tables of the Senate and the House of Assembly.
That is right. We all know that.
That is correct. We can see that. The hon. the Prime Minister’s point about whether or not the first three interim reports have been laid upon the Table or whether or not they in any way form the subject matter of this Bill still does not alter the position that in dealing with this Bill, which is the result of the Schlebusch Commission’s inquiry, the labours of the Schlebusch Commission, the members of the Schlebusch Commission who are in this House, and they are all members of this House, are unable to speak for fear that they may disclose something of the report which they have been living with for two years and thereby commit an offence.
Nobody can commit an offence in this House by talking about it. [Interjections.]
Sir, does the hon. the Prime Minister remember a Member of Parliament called Mr. Jaap Marais? Mr. Jaap Marais waved a document in this House one day in connection with “meeluistering” or “afluistering” or something like that, and he was charged under the Official Secrets Act.
Not because he spoke in this House, but because he had the report outside, which he… [Interjections.]
No, Sir, the hon. the Prime Minister will not get away with that.
Of course, that is the position.
The hon. the Prime Minister will recall that at the time the very question was raised as to whether or not he could be charged in respect of anything he had said in this House and the answer was that he could be, and he was.
You cannot even commit libel in this House; how can you be charged?
Libel is a different thing altogether.
Mr. Jaap Marais was charged for what he had said in this House.
Not for what he said in this House but because he had a document in his possession outside.
The offence was not that he had this document in his possession, but that he disclosed this information, and he did not disclose it outside; he disclosed it in this House; that was the offence—the fact that he disclosed it. The hon. the Prime Minister is wrong. But in any event does the hon. the Prime Minister really want to put hon. members in the position, to put it at its very lowest, of being obliged now to commit an offence in fact—even if the hon. the Prime Minister was wrong—for which they could not be prosecuted if he was right?
But what about his promise?
Sir, what sort of situation is this? That is the position so far as hon. members are concerned. Let us now get back to the hon. the Prime Minister’s promise. What he said was that a Select Committee of Parliament would investigate and come to a finding on facts, and Parliament would be apprised of those facts.
And then Parliament would decide. The hon. the Prime Minister says “Yes”. Sir, where are those facts? The Schlebusch Commission has been sitting since it presented those interim reports early last year, I think. Do not tell me that it has not found any more facts or made any further investigations. Of course it has. The Commission has been sitting for months, for month after month in the recess, doing this job of work. Where are those facts? Those are the facts we want. The hon. the Prime Minister has got those facts; he has got the report. What is more, he has had one report for two or two and a half months and he has had the other one for over a month.
Surely you know that I have only got the report in Afrikaans and that it is a very lengthy report and that it must be translated into English.
Then why did you bring this Bill?
Sir, I do not know why the hon. the Prime Minister says “as you know”; I do not know. All I know is that he has the report. I do not know in what language it is.
It would not be the first thing to appear in one language either.
Why does he come with a Bill anyway?
Why can it not be translated?
It is being translated at this moment.
It is taking a long time.
Why cannot the Bill wait so that the hon. the Prime Minister can fulfil his promise to Parliament? [Interjections.]
Why not wait until after the election?
Sir, this is an important matter from the hon. the Prime Minister’s point of view and it is an important matter from the point of view of this Parliament and from the point of view of the honour of certain members.
You are begging the question of the Bill.
The hon. the Prime Minister promised this House when that Select Committee was appointed that the facts would be made available to Parliament and that Parliament on those facts could make up its mind as to what, if anything, should be done.
On the subject of this Bill the Schlebusch Commission has already reported to Parliament.
Mr. Speaker, that of course is not so. Let me demonstrate that the hon. the Prime Minister is talking absolute nonsense. In its interim report the Schlebusch Commission recommended that there should be a permanent body to do the sort of work that it, the Schlebusch Commission, was doing, and it set out what sort of body it thought it might be. Does the hon. the Prime Minister remember that?
Yes, you remember it too.
I remember it; I have it here. I could read it to the Prime Minister. Under this Bill, Sir, the one that does all this investigation is an authorized officer, and these organizations are controlled by a registrar. Well, has the Schlebusch Commission changed its mind? How does that provision come here? Surely this comes as the result of something else that has happened? The hon. the Prime Minister cannot get out of it like this. After the interim reports he did not produce a Bill.
He had the whole of last session to produce a Bill if those interim reports were in fact the subject matter forming the foundation of this Bill, but he did not. Now he gets the report in December, or January of this year, and the first thing he does, after getting that final report on Nusas and the Institute of Race Relations, is to introduce this Bill. Is that not a strange coincidence?
Do you think that this Bill was only prepared this year? [Interjections.]
Well, why does it only come before us now? Why was the Schlebusch Commission then asked to sit in the recess, for months and months?
It does not only deal with the subject of this Bill. Surely you know that it deals with other matters as well. You are just afraid to argue the merits of the Bill. [Interjections.]
The Prime Minister cannot run away from this one fact.
You are running away.
The Prime Minister said that before Parliament deals with the matter it will be apprised of the facts. [Interjections.] There was going to be fact-finding by that body and then when Parliament knew the facts it would decide either to do something or to do nothing. But what is the position now?
You have not said a word about the Bill yet.
The hon. the Deputy Minister, when he introduced the Bill, did the same thing that he did when he introduced the other Bill. He just went through the clauses and told us what they did; that we know.
Then argue the clauses.
It is a matter of a promise made by the hon. the Prime Minister to this Parliament, a promise that this Parliament would be given the facts, that it would be given the report, in fact, and that when this commission had reported to Parliament, Parliament would know the facts and would be in a position either to do something about it or not to do anything. But what he does now is to produce legislation and to ask Parliament to do something about it, without fulfilling his promise to acquaint Parliament with the facts. That is the position. And why? Cannot this Bill wait until we have the facts?
Argue the merits of the Bill and put your case. [Interjections.] Why do you not state your party’s point of view on the principle contained in the Bill? [Interjections.]
We are dealing here not only with a promise by the hon. the Prime Minister, but with the integrity of Parliament itself. [Interjections.] What is more, we are dealing with the integrity of hon. members of this House who sat on that Commission and who have been the subject of some of the worst public vilification in our political history. You put them now in this position that they are unable to say what they really think or really know.
Surely any member can tell this House what he thinks of the principle of the Bill. It is for that reason that I am sitting here listening to you, to hear your views on the principle.
Those hon. members who are sitting in this House do not just say what they think without motivating it, otherwise a speech would take three sentences. You motivate it and say why, so that you can persuade the members of the House as to what they should do, and so that you can persuade the public. Surely this is fundamental.
It looks as if they have something to hide.
Sir, I do not understand this. It seems the hon. the Prime Minister’s case is now going to be that the Schlebusch Commission has done nothing which is relative to this Bill at all since it produced its interim reports.
Your whole argument makes nonsense of… [Interjections.]
Has the Schlebusch Commission in fact reported at all or taken any evidence or found any facts relating to the subject matter of this Bill since the interim report was tabled in this House? That is a fair question.
What is your difficulty?
I merely want to know whether or not the Schlebusch Commission has found any facts or made any recommendations in relation to the subject matter of this Bill, since…
Whether or not they found anything is quite immaterial to this Bill.
I want to know whether they have found any facts or made any recommendations since the interim reports were tabled. That is a fair question and only the hon. the Prime Minister can answer it. He is the only one in this House who is entitled to say anything about it. Have they or have they not? This is really the crux of the issue. Have they or have they not found facts or made recommendations in respect of the subject matter of this Bill since the interim reports were tabled?
They found certain facts which they have already reported to Parliament. That is all I am prepared to say now. [Interjections.]
That is not an answer to the question. This relates to the hon. the Prime Minister’s promise. His promise was that we would only deal with legislation once we had been given the facts. If the hon. the Prime Minister will not answer that question, then I can only assume that his silence is a positive answer. The question was whether, since those reports were tabled, they have found other facts and made other recommendations relating to the subject matter of this Bill. The hon. the Prime Minister will not answer that question.
It is quite immaterial. [Interjections.]
It would be immaterial if his answer was “no”. However, he will not say “no”. Why will he not say “no”?
Because it is not necessary to discuss that report. [Interjections.]
Is it the position now that the hon. the Prime Minister will not answer that question?
I am waiting for you to discuss the merits of the Bill. [Interjections.]
The hon. the Prime Minister has a case if the answer to that question is “no”. We shall then have a case about which we can argue. [Interjections.] Obviously, if the answer to that is not “no”, then the answer to that question is “yes”, in which case there is information in that final report which is relative to and deals with the contents of the Bill which we are now being asked to pass. [Interjections.] Well, Sir, there you are. Silence in the law is very often an admission and in this case I think the House is entitled to take the hon. the Prime Ministers’, not silence, but his refusal to answer the question, as an admission.
The hon. member remains silent about the Bill.
Are you going to vote for or against the Bill?
We are waiting for the promise to be fulfilled.
I hope the hon. the Prime Minister will tell us what, in fact, he is going to do about this and about his promise. Does he regard this matter as being of sufficient importance for Parliament to do something about it?
This principle is of such importance to Parliament and to the whole of the country that that is why this Bill is before the House at this moment.
Of such importance that we should not give proper consideration to it—that is what it amounts to.
But you have not argued the merits and therefore I do not know what you are thinking about the Bill.
Mr. Speaker, can you tell me how anyone can properly argue the merits when the recommendations and findings of fact relevant…
There is a clear-cut principle apart from any recommendations. [Interjections.]
… to this Bill, in fact to the whole purpose of this Bill, are not only not before us, but when the hon. the Prime Minister refuses to place those facts before us?
Why do you not give us your views on the question of foreign money being placed at the disposal of these organizations? [Interjections.]
I am sorry, the hon. the Prime Minister’s attitude here is really most surprising and most unfortunate. He has made a promise to this Parliament and he is now not prepared…
That is nonsense. [Interjections.]
There are a number of things which would have been relevant and which I wanted to say if the hon. the Prime Minister was prepared to concede the fact that he has made the promise. What else has he done? Is he not upstaging the Schlebusch Commission by bringing forward things in a Bill which, by his own admission this afternoon, are factors which would come out of the Schlebusch Commission’s report.
That is your argument.
No, the hon. the Prime Minister admitted to it, and he said that it was as a result of this. We consider this to be an insult not only to Parliament, but also to the hon. members, as I have said. If that is the attitude of the hon. the Prime Minister there seems to be no point whatever at this stage in dealing any further with the subject matter.
That is what you are working up to.
Therefore I propose to move an amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a Second Time. Mr. Speaker, I move as an amendment—
Mr. Speaker, have you ever in your life seen a more pathetic performance?
From the Prime Minister, yes.
What is even more pathetic, is that the chief spokesman of the official Opposition in this country was unable to say, in the course of half an hour, whether or not his party was opposed to the legislation in principle, and that he did not have the courage of his convictions to do two things. The one was to reply to the question by the hon. the Prime Minister and the other was to adopt a clear attitude concerning his party’s standpoint. Something else which was even more pathetic, was that that so-called mighty Opposition party, so-called in their own language, was running away from one hon. member in this hon. House and that was from the hon. member of the Progressive Party, the hon. member for Houghton. They are too afraid to show their colours on this matter because by doing so they may either be playing into the hands of the Progressive Party or they may come up against the National Party.
Now I want to tell the hon. member for Durban North that I should appreciate his having the courage of his convictions and taking up a standpoint in the interests of South Africa, or withdrawing from the political scene. One of the two. This blowing hot and cold we have had this afternoon is most decidedly not in the interests of South Africa. Notwithstanding this weak-kneed attitude, this side of the House, under the leadership of the hon. the Prime Minister, will give guidance to the inhabitants of South Africa concerning this important matter and will put it clearly to them what is in the interests of the inhabitants of South Africa. I want to say clearly to hon. members who are so quick to refer to promises that there is one thing they cannot say, and that is that the hon. the Prime Minister has made promises which he has not kept. What is involved here? I want to put on record that the hon. member for Port Natal should be ashamed of himself about the remark he made while the hon. member for Durban North was speaking. He saw that the hon. the Prime Minister had been in the House a few minutes previously when the division was in progress. A short time ago when the making of promises was being referred to, he was the first person to say “He is probably playing his last few putts.” That is the serious attitude we had last night, too, when we had the same silly spectacle. Serious matters such as these are discussed and then the hon. Opposition is unable to take up a standpoint. There is no difficulty in taking up a standpoint in respect of this matter, because what is the principle of the matter before this House? The principle is to provide for the prohibition of the receipt of money from abroad for certain organizations and to provide for matters connected therewith. In what way is this subject to the report of the Schlebusch Commission? What is there in this that concerns the reports of the Schlebusch Commission? Absolutely nothing. However, it is interesting to note that in 1968 there was legislation before this Parliament. The title of that Act is the Prohibition of Political Interference Act, of which the long title reads as follows—
Section 3 of that Act provides for the prohibition of receipt of financial support from abroad. In that same debate the hon. member for Green Point said the following (Hansard, Vol. 23, col. 4312 of 29 April 1968)—
That is what the hon. member for Green Point said, but after all, some of the hon. members of the Opposition also sat on the Schlebusch Commission and some of them were also signatories to the first three reports of the Commission which were tabled. Hon. members opposite are surely aware of the recommendations contained in those first three reports and the facts on which they were based. Time does not allow me to quote from them at length, but in the first report, concern was expressed about the fact that an organization such as Nusas, for example, was practising politics and that Nusas was practising politics using foreign financial support. Those hon. members were co-signatories with us of this report, were they not? In the second interim report, detailed reference is made to how—if I have the opportunity, I shall quote it to you—Nusas received funds from abroad and that if those funds from abroad were not available, Nusas would go bankrupt. Mention is also made of the fact that those funds are applied towards political activities. On pages 14 et seq. there are quotations from speeches and written statements by leaders of Nusas in the field of politics. These people are not merely engaged in child’s play; they are engaged in very serious planning for the total rejection of authority in this country and for the overthrow of the existing order. If necessary, I shall furnish hon. members with a whole series of definitions of politics. However, there is no doubt that if one reads these reports—one need only look at one organization—these people are trying to practise politics to a far more serious degree in South Africa. In the second report, too, there are details of how these people obtained funds from abroad. Here mention is also made of how funds were channeled through such people as Mr. French-Beytagh and Miss Allison Norman and others. Surely we know the record of these people. Surely we know what is going on here. If hon. members had read only the first two reports, surely they would by then have had sufficient grounds to decide for themselves whether they were in favour of this Bill or not, even though the four organizations and the Schlebusch Commission Reports are not relevant. They need only ask themselves whether this Bill is in the interests of South Africa or not. Nor is that all. They need only look at pages 154 and 155 of the third interim report on Wilgespruit. It was a unanimous finding by the members of the commission that there, too, political activities were taking place with the help of funds from abroad. There, too, the commission recommended that attention be given to the matter. After all, these are public documents. Why then do hon. members have difficulty in deciding for themselves whether or not attention should be given to this matter?
Before I go further, I just want to rectify one matter. I have authority to do so. The hon. members thought they could get away from the choice with which they were faced by making a personal attack on the hon. the Prime Minister. They thought they could present the hon. the Prime Minister to the public outside as a person who was dishonest, as a person who did not keep his promises and as someone who was a bully. That is the impression the hon. member wanted to create and he took half an hour to say it. Mr. Speaker, the reports of the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Organizations in regard to Nusas and the S.A. Institute for Race Relations have been completed. The reports which have been handed to the hon. the Prime Minister comprise, I think, eight or nine volumes and about 1 500 folios of print. The report on Nusas was handed to the hon. the Prime Minister late in December, on 19 December. The report on the Institute for Race Relations was handed to the department of the hon. the Prime Minister in the third week of January. We had strong criticism from the hon. Opposition last year because a report had been tabled in one language and because sufficient copies had not been available. The hon. the Prime Minister then obtained the necessary copies with the greatest possible haste in the interests of this House. Hon. members know themselves that the officials here worked throughout the night to have reports available to members. At least they brought out the report in one language, but the hon. the Prime Minister had nothing but criticism. Now the hon. the Prime Minister is trying to accommodate the House by having the report translated in order that it may be tabled in both languages and by ensuring that it is printed so that sufficient copies may be available to all the members, to the Press and to the outside world, but obviously this cannot be done overnight. One cannot translate 1 500 folio pages in a jiffy. At this stage about a quarter of the translation of the report has already been completed. The Government Printer says that it will take him seven weeks to print the report. When should the hon. the Prime Minister and his department have done this, taking into account all the other commitments which had to be met? It is a physical impossibility. I think that the hon. members should be grateful the hon. the Prime Minister has taken all the trouble to have the report tabled in both languages and to ensure that sufficient copies will be available. I really hope the attack hon. members have made, will not get any further.
I want to state clearly that I have not been forbidden to speak about these matters. I was a member of that Commission and there are other members on this side of the House who were members of that Commission who will gladly and without any hesitation take part in this debate. What is more, they had enough material to decide for themselves whether or not this Bill before this House at the moment is in the interests of South Africa. We do not need to consult the copies of the reports in our possession. There are sufficient public documents available on this subject on the basis of which a fruitful debate may be conducted in this House. Perhaps I can furnish a few more details in that regard. Let us take just one organization, Nusas. I do not have to refer to these reports or to other documents which are available to the public in their thousands. Then I can state the following resolutions on the basis of which, inter alia, a decision will have to be taken concerning the principles embodied in this Bill. Nusas is practising politics in a variety of ways. One is by way of official congressional resolutions, which are taken and which must be carried out. News letters are published. I think they are published weekly or fortnightly.
How did you get hold of those documents? You probably got hold of them as a member of the Commission.
The newsletters are freely available.
Leaders of Nusas make speeches and give lectures. There is more than sufficient material on that. From the words and actions of these people it is clear that they are not only opposed to the policy of the Government but to the whole existing order. An interesting point is that these people reject even liberalism as a political approach. Another matter about which one may concern oneself, is the fact that these people are working towards a polarization between White and Black in South Africa in this political sphere. That is what is causing one concern. May I just refer briefly to something having a bearing on that subject? I quote what Mr. Curtis said on page 15 of the second report—
As regards the political sphere, another leader, Mr. Paul Pretorius, says the following on page 16 in respect of the ballot box—
He continues in this vein. And what is more, these standpoints are supported by the South African Communist Party. This is their standpoint too. They say the following on the same page—
We go to the next leader, Dr. Rick Turner of the Natal University. What does Mr. W. A. de Klerk say about him in his column, “Diary of a Bolander?”—
What more do we want in the sphere of politics? Now one asks oneself: If these people are doing such things from where do they get their funds? Hon. members need only read our reports. They need not be afraid—all the facts are published in the reports. If they do not receive funds from abroad, the whole lot would go bankrupt. But from where do they get their funds, Sir? Now, in the discussion of this Bill, we must decide for ourselves whether we wish to allow such things to continue. These people get their funds from abroad from a variety of organizations. Mention is made of this, and I have already told you some of these funds are brought into the country. I just want to refer in passing to two specific organizations, namely World University Service and International University Exchange Fund. Sir, do you know that this World University Service, with its headquarters, if I am not mistaken, in Geneva, Switzerland, is an organization which was originally established to operate more specifically on the social terrain. It is very interesting to note how various organizations moved more towards the left in about 1970, in South Africa as well. It was that same movement towards the left which eventually obliged the hon. the Prime Minister to come to Parliament and ask for a Select Committee, because this movement to the left, or the further movement towards the left as from 1970, gave cause for grave concern. But in 1970 the same thing occurred in respect of this organization. After they had held a conference in India, they said the following, for example—
From a Nusas newsletter the following also drew attention; that these people had decided to lend their support to the so-called freedom forces in Africa. Do you know that this organization, which supplies Nusas with a major part of its funds, liaises with approximately 20 terrorists movements operating in Africa? The most well known are the A.N.C., P.A.C., Frelimo, Zapu (Zimbabwe African Peoples Union) and Zanu (Zimbabwe African National Union). This is the organization which for these people is their major source of income abroad. In a statement which appeared in a British newspaper, the general secretary says the following—
These are the friends of people who are operating in South Africa, and hon. members opposite do not have the courage of their convictions to take up a standpoint and to say: We want nothing to do with them. But. Sir, they can move a motion of no confidence in the hon. the Prime Minister and the Government on this side of the House in which they maintain that the National Party is a security risk for South Africa. Who is a greater security risk today than the hon. members sitting over there? [Interjections.]
The other major source of funds from abroad for this organization—I am confining myself to the one organization only—is the International University Exchange Fund. This organization had its origin in about 1950, and states, inter alia, the following in a publication—
Sir, these then are funds entering South Africa, and on a large scale too. The amounts are not important, nor are they fully indicated in the reports. There are certain amounts of about R20 000 which are in fact mentioned here. I do not want to go further than that. I just want to emphasize that those funds are entering South Africa on a large scale. For what purpose are those funds, inter alia, utilized?—To pay for the trials of terrorists whose cases are heard here. They are also utilized for, inter alia, paying for the trials of students who break the law here in South Africa. They are also utilized for, other purposes, which amount to this, that the existing order in South Africa be overthrown. That, inter alia, is what those funds are used for here in South Africa. Now I ask again: Should we continue to allow funds of that kind to come here? Let us just take another report. This morning there was a report in the newspaper here that the World Council of Churches had decided to donate another amount of about R300 000—“to support 29 freedom movements in Africa and elsewhere”. From where do Wilgespruit and the South African Council of Churches, inter alia, get their funds? In today’s Cape Times there is a report which reads as follows—
They went on to say—
These people, Mr. Speaker, who can donate R300 000 to terrorist movements in Africa, send funds to South Africa for local use. I am also grateful for being able to say, Sir, that there are also organizations in South Africa who refuse to receive these funds. However, the question before this House in terms of this Bill is the following: Must this legislature allow funds of this kind to enter South Africa from the sources from which they emanate, to be used, not to fight terrorism, but to practise politics here in South Africa?” The politics practised by those organizations here, amount to this: Because of the internal situation in South Africa, the terrorists on our borders must be excused and there is justification for their actions. According to them we are the cause of those things; we are the cause of there being terrorists on our borders, and people in South Africa are using money they receive from abroad from organizations which support terrorist movements, to fight this Government, which is trying to safeguard the security of South Africa. And those people, the U.P., are too useless and too feeble to take up a standpoint on this. Mr. Speaker, we have two months in which we shall be able to tell the public in South Africa from platform to platform that the United Party is too wesk-kreed to say that they will not allow money to enter South Africa from abroad to be used for political purposes.
Mr. Speaker, I regret that the hon. the Prime Minister is not here because I want to address some remarks to him presently.
He will be back in a moment.
Thank you. The hon. Chief Whip will note that I am going to quote from Hansard, No. 37, col. 725.
Vol. 37. Is that supposed to be a joke? I shall quote from Vol. 37. col. 725, so that the hon. the Prime Minister will know precisely which of his remarks I am alluding to. However, Sir, before doing that, I wish to address a few remarks to the hon. member who has just sat down. He is a trained legal man. I believe he practises law today. He has been a prosecutor. He comes along here today and for all practical purposes he ignores the whole basis and origin of the Bill before us and he starts the history of the Bill as from its First Reading stage. He is like a man, Sir, who from the legal point of view, finds a corpse. He says: I wonder whether this was murder? It does not matter. I have a corpse so let us go forward from here. The circumstances leading up to the corpse are of no importance to him at all. He is not interested in how it came about that the man died. He starts with the fact that there is a corpse and he says to us: What do you have to say about that corpse? What about that corpse? Do not tell me that you are interested in how the crime may have been committed, if there was a crime, or anything about it. I want you to tell me about that corpse. Mr. Speaker, this is nonsense. I should like to put a few questions to the hon. member. The hon. member is a member of the Schlebusch Commission. Does he know the contents of the last report that is not yet before us?
Of course. Then why did the hon. member not use the evidence when he was speaking just now?
Because I know what the regulations provide and I know how far to go.
You see, Mr. Speaker. There you have the answer to the hon. the Prime Minister from the deputy chairman of the Schlebusch Commission. He does not use the evidence in the report because he knows what the regulations are and he knows that he is not permitted to do so. There it is, as plain as a pikestaff [Interjections.] No, do not make any mistake about what he said. He has proved it right up to the hilt. Sir, I need therefore dwell no longer on the hon. member as a witness in the case before us. He is not only utterly valueless, but has proved to be completely unreliable.
Now I want to come to the hon. the Deputy Minister who introduced this Bill. I want to say to him that when he was asked in connection with this Bill whether he had read the last report, which is not before us, he said: “Of course not.” What did he say? I wrote it down very carefully. He said—
If he does not know what is in the report, how does he know that what he knows is more than what is contained in the report?
I explained that in my last speech.
You see, Sir, this unfortunately is what we have to deal with on this side of the House. What more is there, which is not in the report, that he knows? What more does he know than is in the report?
I get reports apart from the Schlebusch Commission’s report. I do not know what is in the Schlebusch Commission’s report.
He knows more than what is in the report but he will not tell us. The Deputy Minister is keeping it up his sleeve. This is the acting Minister of Justice who is piloting this Bill through the House, and this is the way in which he acts in regard to his responsibility in the matter. I want to say that that was a slip of the tongue, but it was true. That slip of the tongue was true. When he said that he was perfectly aware of what he was saying. He was answering a question put to him from this side of the House as to whether he had read the report or not. He knew what he was doing. He is also a trained legal man. I am not. I am a poor farmer from the backveld, but here we have these lawyers and trained legal men and they put their foot into it right up to the neck in order to prove our case for us on this side of the House.
What is our case? Our case is that we are not in a position to judge until that last report has been before us and we have had a chance to study it. What is more, I want to say to the hon. the Prime Minister now that he knew that and he accepted it, and not only that, but he said, and he laid it down in specific words, that that would be the position he would be adopting. Here was an undertaking he gave. Sir, I am going to be most careful in my choice of language. I know the hon. the Prime Minister is a very busy man who carries tremendous responsibilities. He is a man who carries the cares of South Africa on his shoulders. What with this and that, if another department is handling legislation, it may well be that he does not go back to Hansard to see what he said on 10 February 1972, to see whether what is happening now is in compliance with the assurances he gave us then, assurances which if they are broken today we are going to lay at the door of the hon. the Prime Minister. The Government gave us no assurances. The Minister of Justice gave us no assurances, and the hon. member for Potchefstroom gave us no assurances. The assurances were given by an individual, and he was the Prime Minister of South Africa, who made that speech and gave us those assurances. Now, what were the assurances he gave us? They were assurances which made it clear that Parliament was going to get the full facts. I want to put it to the hon. the Prime Minister as another legally-trained man. We are sitting here as the highest court in the land, as it were. That has been repeated over and over and we have to deal with those matters that come before us to the best of our ability and act in the best interests of South Africa. For that purpose we need the facts. I do not think anyone will dispute that and nobody will complain about it. In fact the Prime Minister said so in his speech. We need the facts, and he said so. Sir, supposing that from this court here we transfer the scene and go to another court, a court of law, and there is evidence being given before judges in that court of law. I put it to the hon. the Prime Minister as a legal man. These judges are given three volumes of interim reports, but the last one is withheld and they are told to form a judgment and come to a decision, reach a verdict on all the reports including the last on which they have not seen and which will not be given to them. What does he think the judges will say? Why should we be any more expected to form a judgment, and give a verdict? Because that is what the Bill before us is. This Bill is a written verdict, the result of the deliberations of the Schlebusch Commission, and here we are expected to say, in regard to its provisions, whether they are right or wrong or partly right or partly wrong. In other words, as a Parliament we are expected to debate them, and in the absence of that worthwhile last document, which no tribunal would tolerate. The hon. the Prime Minister, if he were sitting as a judge, would not accept that kind of thing. He would not countenance it for one moment, if he was the judicial officer sitting there to adjudicate a case brought before him in such a manner. But we are expected to do it. Now, what did the hon. the Prime Minister say? I go back to col. 725 of Hansard. The Prime Minister said—
It is for Parliament to decide, and Parliament now has this Bill before us and we do not have the evidence to tell us whether Nusas stinks or not.
But Nusas is not even mentioned in this Bill. [Interjections.]
What happened when one of the interim reports was presented to the Government? The moment after the interim report had received the consideration of the Government, they banned certain people. They did not ban them before they got the report; they banned them after they got the report. The Prime Minister will be the first to say that they considered the report and it was on the evidence and the information and the facts in that report that they banned those people. Why did not the Government ban these people before they got the evidence? What are we expected to do now? Are we expected now to pass legislation which will have far-reaching effects before we have any evidence? Why is it assumed, for example, that there is going to be no opposition to this Bill in South Africa? If in fact the evidence was fully laid before Parliament and we had an opportunity to study it, surely that is the time when we would be able to say whether any opposition to the Bill is justified. There are very few matters of human endeavour that cannot be opposed in some way or other. Anyone who does something is likely to get some kind of criticism and then the pros and cons have to be weighed up, but never let it be said of this Parliament, the highest court in the land, that we are prepared to take decisions before we have got the vital evidence before us. How many times, at public meetings and elsewhere—and I am one of those who have been under the lash because members of the United Party sat on the Commission—have we said from public platform to public platform, the same as hon. members opposite: Let us wait for the final report of the Schlebusch Commission? The hon. member for Houghton and all the people behind her have questioned us in this regard at meetings, and how many times have we not said that the final word will be contained in the final report of the Schlebusch Commission? That is what we have been waiting for. But now we are asked to come along and pass this important legislation without waiting for that final report of the Schlebusch Commission. I am surprised that the hon. the Prime Minister talks about the difficulties of translation and say that the report is only in one language. It will make no difference to anybody if this Bill waits over. What have we done all these years that have gone past? The Government has powers at present. Is it not better that when we do something we do it the right way, even if we have to wait a few weeks before it is done? Is that not the right attitude and the right course to follow? If the Government wants emergency powers for a specific purpose, let them come along with their request for emergency powers. Let us deal with it if there is some critical issue facing South Africa today that has to be dealt with. But, Sir, we have witnesses when the time comes to sift the evidence.
We have members who can sift that evidence and decide whether the decisions arrived at as a result of the evidence are correct, and those are the members of the Schlebusch Commission who month after month were under the lash merely because they sat on that Commission. What were they doing? They were playing their part in the government of South Africa and playing their part in Parliament. This is what the hon. the Prime Minister referred to when he said he was going to refer the matter to Parliament. There they sat week after week and month after month hearing the evidence. They were the men who heard the evidence. How often do we hear judges say in respect of a case that has come from the magistrate’s court below:
“I did not see the demeanour of the witness. I did not hear the evidence myself. I am not going to interfere with the judgment. I might have given it had I heard that case. However, I am not going to interfere with the decision of the magistrate. He saw the witnesses; he saw their demeanour; he heard the evidence himself; I am not going to interfere.” We have three men who heard the evidence, but they are stopped from speaking. Who says so? The hon. member for Potchefstroom, the deputy chairman of the Schlebusch Commission. He says so. [Interjections.] So here we sit with these three men unable to participate, unable to say whether the evidence led directly and logically to such a finding. It may be that when we get that report, we may say that this Bill is absolutely the answer.
You would not say that.
I beg your pardon?
You would not say that; you are to scared.
Are you bashful? Can you not speak up? It may be that we, after having received the Schlebusch Commission’s final report and after having studied the report, may be able to say that the Bill before Parliament is justified. The hon. the Prime Minister was, I can almost say, at great pains to ask the Opposition to join the Schlebusch Commission. He asked that it should be a South African approach to the problem, a very, very serious problem indeed. The hon. the Prime Minister now jettisons the whole of what he did in connection with asking the Opposition to serve on the Schlebusch Commission. [Interjections.] He jettisons it completely, throws it overboard and smacks in the face every member of the United Party who serves on the Commission. He says in effect: “I am not interested in what your views on the Bill may be arising out of your work on the Schlebusch Commission. The Bill has been introduced by the Deputy Minister, and here it is whether you like it or not.” He then says: “Do not talk to me about the evidence that you have not heard. You have not heard it because the report is only in one language. Never mind about the evidence in any case; do not busy yourself with that; tell me what you think about the Bill.” He is exactly like the hon. member for Potchefstroom. He is saying: “Here is the body; tell me what you think about it.” When we say to him: “But, Mr. Prime Minister, how did the body get here; was it murder or was it suicide or what was it? Was it a natural death? What happened?”, he says: “Do not talk to me about that; tell me whether I shall hang the man who committed the murder.” We then ask: “But where is the evidence that it was murder?” He then replies: “No, you have my word for it. I am telling you that this is a bad show and I want you to tell me what to do about hanging the murderer.” Mr. Speaker, this is not the way for the hon. the Prime Minister to deal with this matter. Does he pay no tribute whatever to the members of the United Party who suffered so badly under the lash because they supported the Schlebusch Commission and sat there in the fulfilment of their duty at a time when they were being bitterly criticized? Let him go to the hon. member for Yeoville if he wants to know what happened to the members of the United Party and the way they were hammered because they took part in the Schlebusch Commission. I was not a member of the Schlebusch Commission, but I was one of those who were hammered. Let me repeat: With hon. members opposite right throughout the bitter campaign that was being waged against us, we kept on saying: “Wait for the final report of the Schlebusch Commission.” Today, when we come to that, the hon. the Prime Minister waves it aside as a matter of no consequence. I say that we trusted him when he made that speech at that time. We trusted the hon. the Prime Minister. We believed that this matter would come to Parliament and that Parliament would adjudicate even if it meant a joint meeting of members of the official Opposition and the Government so that a Bill could be drafted jointly and introduced into Parliament where it would get the full support of the Parliament of South Africa. That was what we expected; that was what we understood was the promise the hon. the Prime Minister made us; that was the undertaking which was written into those words. However, today the hon. the Prime Minister brushes it aside as a matter of no consequence. I say that this is a sorry day; it is a sad day when the finger can be pointed at the hon. the Prime Minister as a person and he can be told to his face, openly in the light of day: “You made an undertaking in regard to this question of the Schlebusch Commission and its work and when the time came, you crept behind the back of the United Party, the Opposition, who had served you and South Africa well and truly and suffered bitterly because they carried out their duty to South Africa, and what you have done now is a complete betrayal of these men.” I think that this is a shocking day. This is the truth of the matter as it will appear to all honest and honourable men who may be reading the record of these events of the present time.
Mr. Speaker, normally I would not have taken part in a debate of this nature, but on account of what was said by the hon. member for Durban North and on account of what the hon. member for South Coast has just said, I do of course have no option but in fact to take part in this debate. I want to tell the hon. member for South Coast with all the respect I have for him as an older member that if he is looking for trouble in this regard, he may get it from me. Let there be absolutely no doubt about that. What do we have before us now? We have before us a Bill which contains one principle only. That principle is that this House should express an opinion on whether it is in favour of political organizations in South Africa receiving money from abroad for carrying on their undermining activities in South Africa. Now, if the hon. member for Durban North does not agree with me that this is the principle contained in this Bill, he can tell me so, but I take it that the hon. member for Durban North agrees with me that this is in fact the principle of this Bill. Am I correct in drawing this conclusion? [Interjections.] I have replied to the best of my ability to all the questions which the hon. member for Durban North put to me so lavishly, and now I ask him this one question only: Is this the principle contained in this Bill, yes or no?
That is an oversimplification.
Now the hon. member says that is an over-simplification of it. Let us analyse it now. Before we analyse it, let us take a look at what the hon. member says on paper in his amendment. He was not prepared to say this in his speech, for then, after all, he could be quoted. In his amendment the hon. member for Durban North says—
In other words, here the hon. member himself describes the principle contained in this Bill. In his amendment he does not only speak for himself, he does not only speak for his party, but also for the whole House. He says not only that the whole House is opposed to interference, but that the House is “totally opposed” to interference of that nature. Surely that is the principle which is contained in this Bill. Surely this Bill does not deal with any other principle. Now I ask, since references are being made so lavishly to “given word” and “courage” and all that sort of thing: If the Opposition are in earnest about this and they do not merely want to make political capital and run with the hare and hunt with the hounds in this regard… [Interjections.] My question is this: If the Opposition are in earnest about saying that we are totally opposed to political interference in South African affairs from abroad and to the receipt by politically activist organizations within the Republic of financial assistance from abroad, I want to ask them as one South African to another why they do not see their way clear to agreeing now, here at the Second Reading stage, to the principle of the Bill, which they also incorporated in an amendment.
What other motives are involved? What other considerations are involved? Why do hon. members not talk to us openly and tell us what their problems and difficulties are in this regard? If one confesses on the one hand that one is totally opposed to it, if that is one’s considered standpoint and if one is honest in taking up that standpoint, and the Government comes forward on certain grounds, to which I shall refer in a moment, with a Bill which does not exceed by one jot or tittle what one has confessed here, but embraces in every respect what one says one believes in and is one’s principle, for what reason does one then not see one’s way clear to voting in favour of that principle in the open House? For what reason does one not see one’s way clear to saying to South Africa and its people: “This is my standpoint; I believe in it.”
The argument the hon. member has now advanced is that we do not have facts and evidence on which we can judge. The hon. member’s charge against me now is that I expect him and others to anticipate what is stated in the final report of the Schlebusch Commission.
The question is merely…
Oh, please, I can manage without the hon. member’s advice. Up to now I have managed to do so very well. The hon. member’s charge was that it could not be expected that a judgment should be given before the full report of the Schlebusch Commission had become known.
That was the promise.
We shall deal with the promise; we shall deal with it in great detail. Now I just want to ask the hon. member what information he had at his disposal, because he is just as ignorant of what is stated in the final report of the Schlebusch Commission as is any other person. On the strength of what information did he therefore arrive at the standpoint embodied here in his amendment? Surely this amendment could not have fallen from the blue. Surely this information must have been obtained somewhere. I want to tell him that he is quite correct in what he says in his amendment. That is not something which one needs to read in the report of the Schlebusch Commission. Every man who is interested in the politics of South Africa and who reads newspapers, magazines and other publications in a remotely intelligent manner, knows this—without taking into consideration the findings of the Schlebusch Commission. That is why I told the hon. member that what was stated in the report of the Schlebusch Commission in respect of this matter was quite irrelevant. [Interjections.] The hon. member has had his chance. In the light of the knowledge he had at his disposal, he moved an amendment. He did so with the knowledge of his party, and then he simply assumed to himself the right to speak for us, too, by saying that we should be totally opposed to interference from abroad. And not only interference of such a nature, but interference “by politically activist organizations within the Republic”. In other words, the hon. member is very much aware that there are certain politically activist organizations in South Africa…
Where is that stated in the amendment?
But of course it is stated here. The hon. the Leader should read it over the weekend.
I have read it.
Then I shall read it to the hon. the Leader of the Opposition again: “That the House, while totally opposed to political interference in South African affairs from abroad…” That is the first leg of the amendment. In this Bill which is before the House, the matter at issue is political interference from abroad.
But you are saying that he has knowledge of it.
But on what grounds did he draft the amendment? Without any knowledge? Am I now to assume that he is speaking without any knowledge, for if he does not have any knowledge in respect of this matter, how can he be opposed to it?
In accordance with Standing Order No. 23, the House adjourned at