Chief whip changes tune on secrecy bill

2011-12-03 19:42

ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga is set to meet editors on Tuesday as lobbying continues for changes to the controversial Protection of State Information Bill.

But Motshekga, who requested the meeting on Friday, accused critics of the bill of “stupid liberal snobbery”.

Motshekga, in the party’s weekly newsletter ANC Today, said the inclusion of a public defence clause in the bill would make South Africa the only country in the world without state security.

“Public interest is implausible, logically unsound, indefinite, arbitrary, constantly shifting, vague and elastic.

“Its proponents have offered no precise, rigorous definition to what exactly does this laudable concept applies to,” he said.

“Just as there might be sectional public interest in knowing about public corruption, there’s also public interest in knowing about rape victims,” he said, yet their names are not published in newspapers.

But the editors still feel the ANC was open to changes in the bill, National Press Club chairperson Yusuf Abramjee said.

He said he had an informal discussion with State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, the author of the bill, who told him there was still room for talks.

“They realised that they have rushed this thing,” Abramjee said.

Tuesday’s meeting in Johannesburg will be a sequel to the editors’ meeting with Cosatu last week.

Cosatu and other civil society organisations are also campaigning for changes to the bill.

ANC members of Parliament Luwellyn Landers and Cecil Burgess, who both headed the National Assembly ad hoc committee dealing with the bill, and another ANC MP John Jeffreys, are expected to attend the
meeting.

The bill was passed by the National Assembly last month and will now come before an ad hoc committee in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Once this house of Parliament passes the bill, President Jacob Zuma has to sign it to become law.

The NCOP committee, which consists of 10 members of Parliament from the governing ANC and five from the opposition, is expected to elect a chairperson on Wednesday. It had been given a deadline of April to wrap up its work.

An ANC member of Parliament this week said the committee might consider holding more public hearings on the bill before the NCOP processed it.

“If we feel strongly about the need for amendments we will do so, and hand the bill back to the National Assembly,” he said.

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