Info bill committee re-established

2011-03-17 19:04
Cape Town - The National Assembly on Thursday finally reconstituted the ad hoc committee on the protection of information bill.

In terms of a resolution proposed by Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga and unanimously adopted by the House, the committee would be re-established with the same membership and mandate as its predecessor.

The previous committee ceased to exist when it did not finish its work by January 28.

The resolution instructed the committee to incorporate in its work the proceedings and all the work of the previous committee up to and including January 28, and set a deadline for the committee to report on June 24.

Work on the legislation ground to a halt in February when opposition parties said the lifespan of the committee had been unlawfully extended.

An extension was granted by Deputy Speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo after the committee's lifespan lapsed on January 28, following a request from committee chairperson Cecil Burgess.

The opposition protested that it was unlawful to extend the lifespan of a committee after it had expired, and that it should instead have been reconstituted, which only the Assembly could do.

Opposition parties walked out of meeting of the committee last month after signalling their protest against the extension.

The bill provoked a public outcry last year because of the vast powers it would confer on organs of state to classify information.

Faced with accusations that it was resorting to apartheid-era secrecy laws to stifle criticism, the government made two major concessions.

The state security ministry agreed to scrap provisions allowing for classification in the national interest - a concept dismissed by critics as nebulous - and the classification of commercial information.

Vast areas of discord remain.

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