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'POIB will interfere with press freedom'

An ex-UN chief said SA needs to answer some uncomfortable questions in order to sustain its democracy.

Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - South Africa needs to answer some uncomfortable questions in order to sustain its democracy for years to come, said former Ireland president Mary Robinson.

She was addressing politicians and delegates at the 10th annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Cape Town.

A stern, but warm, Robinson reflected fondly on the day the former statesman was inaugurated as president before recounting on her work as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Her speech conveyed both positive and negative views of the country.

She told delegates South Africa remained, as her friend Dr Mamphela Ramphele puts it, "a nation of wounded people".

The former Ireland president says while South Africa was still a young democracy, it should address its under-performing education system and question itself on why illiteracy levels are so high.

On the Protection of State Information Bill (POIB), Robinson simply said secrecy was the enemy of truth.

She said if it became law, it would interfere with press freedom and possibly give way to corruption flourishing.

Despite that, she ended her speech on a good note, saying she was confident South Africa would realise opportunities for its humanity to emerge fully.