South African lawmakers on Tuesday approved the State Security Information Bill to the great concern of press freedom advocates in South Africa and elsewhere.
The measure passed by 229 to107 in a session that saw politicians of the ruling African National Congress and the opposition trade barbs after months of debate.
The ANC says South Africa must update apartheid-era legislation defining secrets and setting punishments for divulging them, and that it has no intention of trampling on free expression and a media determined to expose abuses of office.
But critics including the office of former president Nelson Mandela, church and business leaders and Nobel laureates have said the measure is intended to keep corruption under wraps, stifle whistle-blowing and in general undermine democracy.
Secretary General Foster Dongozi of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists said the ANC is following in the disastrous footsteps of Zimbabwe's former ruling ZANU-PF which passed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to silence its critics.
But ANC Secretary Genera Gwede Mantashe told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that the ruling party has a duty to safeguard national security information.
Sunday Times of Johannesburg Editor Mondli Makhanya described the passage of the legislation as a sad chapter in South African history.
Nhlanhla Ngwenya, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe, said the State Security Information bill hurts media freedom in Zimbabwe.