News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Thursday June 20th 2019

Secrecy Bill amendments on the cards

11.05.2012

MPs are set to invite the Department of State Security to debate proposed changes made by political parties to the controversial Protection of State Information Bill.

Late last week ANC MPs on the National Council of Provinces’ Ad Hoc committee looking into the Bill conceded to amendments set to protect citizens if they revealed classified information that exposed criminal activity.

This came as a surprise as the party made some concessions to issues concerned stakeholders had been advocating for, for over two years

The proposal would protect people who disclosed information that was wrongly classified by officials to hide “an unlawful act or omission, incompetence, inefficiency or administrative error”.

This was a small relief to those who had submitted that the Bill include a public interest clause to protect whistleblowers.

Addressing a press briefing on Friday, committee chairperson Raseriti Tau said that the new changes would be up for debate when the committee invited the department to its next meeting.

He said that as a committee they would persuade the department to accept the changes they had made, but he indicated that they “could be persuaded otherwise”.

Tau said there was a need to strike a balancing act between the department’s expectations of the Bill without undermining the concerns of citizens.

He said that a time would come in the process of debating the Bill when committee members from various parties would have to meet behind closed doors to “persuade one another”.

He denounced perceptions that the NCOP was a “toothless house” meant to rubber stamp what had been through the National Assembly.

He said that if the two houses disagree on amendments to the Bill, a mediation committee would be appointed to resolve their differences.

The committee has proposed that its deadline to finalise the Bill, which was fast coming to a close, be extended to the end of next month.

The Right2Know campaign was set to meet for a brief candle-lit vigil outside Parliament on Friday “to mark a small but important victory” for those who continue to oppose the provisions of the Bill. – Francis Hweshe

Tags: Department of State Security, National Assembly, NCOP, Protection of State Information Bill, Raseriti Tau, The Right2Know campaign

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