ANC looks to wrap up info bill

2012-11-14 00:00

The ANC yesterday did a turnabout on a key point in its conciliatory attitude regarding the Protection of State Information Bill (the so-called secrecy bill).

It now also looks certain that the bill will be bulldozed through Parliament before the end of the year.

Observers suspected as early as yesterday afternoon that the political dark clouds were gathering when the fairly moderate chairperson, ANC’s Raseriti Tau, did not assume the chairperson’s seat. He was apparently occupied elsewhere.

The suspicion proved to be correct when ANC MP Teboho Chaane assumed the chair and ANC MP Sam Mazosiwe started reading the ANC’s latest proposals.

The major change is that the ANC is once again insisting that the bill should take priority over all others, including the Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) bill.

Critics of the “secrecy bill” believe such a step will make cover-ups so much easier.

The ANC is also more unrelenting about which officials may classify information as secret and who may have access to it.

Cope MP Dennis Bloem reminded the ANC about the statement by public protector Thuli Madonsela that such a stipulation will hamper her in the performance of her duties, and about Cosatu’s statement that South Africa is on its way to becoming a police state.

It now also looks as though the ANC wants to force the bill through parliament before the end of the year and wants to use its majority to impose its preferences, rather than negotiate with the opposition.

“We are not going to agree on everything anyway, so let’s get it over and done with,” was the essence of a declaration by ANC MP Nosipho Ntwanambi.

The ad hoc committee will, therefore, meet again this afternoon, and the majority’s views will prevail on the points in dispute.

The ANC wants the National Council of Provinces to vote on, and wrap up, the bill as early as tomorrow, but the DA, in the person of Alf Lees, said such steamrolling tactics are unparliamentary and will be opposed.

If the National Council of Provinces does pass the bill, all the opposition parties have undertaken to stand together to force President Jacob Zuma to refer the bill to the constitutional court for a ruling on its constitutionality or otherwise.

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