The African National Congress (ANC) used its majority to push through the protection of information bill which proposes penalties for disclosure and possession of material classified secret.
Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille were among activists opposed to the bill.
“This all-embracing secrecy bill… we smell and suspect is not about the real secrets that must be defended, but it’s to prevent those silly leaders who have egg on their face, who have been exposed by the media for doing foolish and embarrassing things,” Kasrils told the crowd outside parliament.
Among such things, he said, were “misusing and abusing” tenders and contracts as well as taxpayers’ money.
Activists and editors fear the bill will hinder investigations into wrongdoing and affect media reporting.
Kasrils who is a member of the ANC said he felt he had to take part in the march as his concern for the country transcended party loyalty.
“When your mother or father, brother or sister, your family, are doing the wrong thing… you raise your voice and say: ‘That is wrong, it must not be done’,” he said. News24