Info bill won't be passed if unconstitutional

2010-10-22 14:16

Cape Town - Parliament's special ad hoc committee dealing with the draft protection of information bill will not approve the bill if it is clearly unconstitutional, committee chairperson Cecil Burgess said on Friday.

"There can be no Parliament in this world, certainly in South Africa, that is going to be that brave to pass a bill that it knows itself is clearly unconstitutional," he said at the start of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele's second presentation to the committee.

"I don't know if there are such fools that are alive today. I've not met any of them in Parliament.

"So, if there are any concerns out there that this committee is going to deal with the bill in such a manner that when it is finished, it is clearly unconstitutional, or that it is violating constitutional rights, I think that would be a very incorrect impression of the way Parliament works," Burgess said.

The committee had not yet started interacting on the bill on a clause-by-clause basis.

"We have been collecting information, we have been listening to the public, and contrary to what the public or some people might think, we have been listening, and all the information and concerns raised will be taken into consideration, and it will be debated when we deal with the clause-by-clause process. We have not yet reached that (stage)."

The committee would then decide whether any clause or particular definition should be changed or deleted.

"But, let it not be said that Parliament has already processed this bill and that this bill is going to survive or not survive in the shape that it presently is. That we will only know when the process is finished."

It also seemed there was some confusion as to Cwele's role.

The minister did not have the power to amend the bill. Only Parliament had the power to do so.

Cwele had simply been given the opportunity to comment on concerns raised during public hearings on the bill. His comments in the first presentation a few weeks ago, and those made on Friday, were matters the committee "may or may not take into consideration".

"They are only suggestions and the committee does not have to take it into consideration," Burgess said.