South Africa

In a protest move against a bill in the South African parliament, the nation’s Web address administrator has moved the zone file for the address to a location beyond the reach of authorities.

Mike Lawrie, the administrator of South Africa’s .za domain suffix, said he hid the zone file, which points users to specific domains, because he believes a bill passed by the National Assembly would give the government too much power over the Internet. The bill, introduced by Parliament member Nkenke Kekana, still has to pass the country’s National Council of Provinces and be signed by President Thabo Mbeki before it becomes law.

“I think that I have to do this,” Lawrie said in a telephone interview today. “I don’t really regard it as drastic action.”

However, Lawrie admitted that some of his countrymen see him as being disloyal. “You could say I am public enemy No. 1,” Lawrie said.

Kekana, a member of the African National Congress party, couldn’t be reached for comment. An ANC spokeswoman said a leading member of the party had died and Kekana was busy arranging the funeral services.

According to the language of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Bill, the aim is to promote usage of the Internet and greater access among South African residents. One of the provisions of the bill, however, is that the government would take over administration of the .za domain.

Lawrie said there are few governments in the world that exercise that kind of control over the Internet.

From his point of view, Lawrie said, the issue boils down to how much involvement the government should have. He said that he’s hopeful the dispute will have an amicable settlement. Currently, is in talks with some government officials, which Lawrie said “sounds very constructive.”

Until then, however, Lawrie will keep the zone file hidden.