MPS battle to harmonise information laws

2010-11-12 18:13

  • The Da Vinci Method
    Break Out & Express Your Fire. Discover and master the fiery temperament shared by great leaders. Now R311.00
    buy now
Cape Town - MPs are expected to spend the coming weeks trying to harmonise the contentious protection of information bill with liberal post-apartheid laws that guarantee access to information.

This emerged as state law advisors on Friday briefed Parliament's ad hoc committee redrafting the bill on juggling the requirements of the Protection of Access to Information Act (PAIA) with the new legislation, widely criticised as an attempt to enshrine a culture of state secrecy.

State law advisor Carin Booyse said the issue was whether there was a hierarchy of legislation, and which law would hold sway where they clashed.

There is a presumption in South African law, she said, that the bill, being the most recent legislation, would trump PAIA if the two were seen to be in conflict.

However, it must be remembered that there was also a provision that Parliament cannot "legislate willy-nilly", meaning that legislation it drafted "must make sense".

The issue was seized upon by opposition MPs who have, along with rights activists, insisted that the bill must be redrafted to be compatible with PAIA's provisions. The Inkatha Freedom Party's Mario Oriani-Ambrosini argued that to remove any confusion, "the bill must be made subject to PAIA in case of any inconsistency".

Tender point

The African Christian Democratic Party's Steve Swart said PAIA enjoyed pre-eminence as "a constitutionally mandated piece of legislation" and that MPs therefore needed to respect the very specific provision it makes for releasing information in the public interest.

This has been a tender point in arguments on the bill, as the ANC has refused to write a so-called public interest defence into the protection of information bill to protect journalists who disclose classified information.

Dene Smuts from the Democratic Alliance said it was explicitly clear that "this law which gives effect to the right to access to information applies to the exclusion of any other law that tries to restrict disclosure of records and any other law that is materially inconsistent with an object of this act.

"It is our duty therefore to write a law that can sit alongside PAIA."

ANC committee chairperson Cecil Burgess said there was a misguided view that MPs did not have the right to write laws that would override PAIA, or to change it outright.

Booyse said the state law advisor's office would go through the bill in detail to identify any areas on conflict with PAIA. She said the aim was to seek to harmonise the legislation.

Burgess on Friday confirmed that he had asked the legislature to extend the lifetime of the committee for a third time, which would enable it to carry on its work next year.

Following a national outcry over the far-ranging powers the original version of the bill gave the state to keep information under wraps, the ANC has back-tracked on two provisions.

With State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele's blessing, MPs have now removed the vague notion of national interest as a cause for classification, as well as provision for the classification of commercial information.

The latter was criticised as a recipe for covering up fraud.

The committee met while Cwele was meeting with representatives of the South African National Editors' Forum to discuss concerns about the impact of the bill on media freedom.
Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  acdp  |  ifp  |  legislation  |  media

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


6 life hacks you simply have to know

A few simple tricks can make your life so much easier!


For chic geeks...

Device lets disabled people talk through their nose
It’s THIS easy for someone to steal your ATM pin!
This is why you should install iOS 8
17 photo illusions that look so real

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


It may feel like you are treading water and going nowhere fast. You may want to get off the merry go round. By pushing more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.