Cwele defends info bill move

2012-11-01 22:15

Cape Town - State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele on Thursday said his call to reverse changes to the protection of state information bill was a bid to save it from being found unconstitutional.

"I commended the efforts which are being done by the NCOP [National Council of Provinces] but it is also my responsibility to highlight the areas which may be problematic, while they are making those amendments," Cwele told the National Assembly.

"We are not forcing the members of the committee, but we are highlighting those issues which may be unconstitutional because it is our responsibility that we should pass a constitutionally sound legislation but also, equally, implementable legislation."

The minister responded to an accusation by Cope's chief whip, Juli Killian, who said he was inappropriately placing executive pressure on the legislature to make "draconian" changes to the bill.

Cwele denied this, and said he had briefed the committee on invitation.

Opposition members of the National Council of Provinces committee finalising the bill had objected to the minister's appearance on Wednesday where he objected to recent, widely welcomed concessions by the ruling party.

Cwele notably called on MPs to reintroduce a five-year prison term for disclosing classified information as well as a clause that would make the new official secrets legislation trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

Ironically, the ANC agreed to scrap clause 1 (4) after rights groups and legal experts warned that it was highly problematic and potentially unconstitutional because it sought to limit the right to state information guaranteed under PAIA.

Cwele also urged MPs to lower the threshold of proof imposed by the bill, arguing that the latest draft would make successful prosecution for revealing state secrets near impossible.

He further objected to a sub-clause that sought to widen protection for whistleblowers.

Opposition parties and rights groups have said they were shocked at his hawskish submission to the committee.

Democratic Alliance MP Alf Lees said: "The proposals presented by the minister, if agreed to by the ANC MPs, would in effect destroy all the hard work the committee has done to ensure that this Bill protects freedom of the press and access to information."

The bill has been extensively rewritten in the past two-and-a-half years since it was introduced by Cwele and condemned by critics, including Cosatu, as an attempt to reintroduce apartheid-era state secrecy.

Expectations that it would be passed by year's end dimmed this week when the committee's deadline to report to the NCOP was extended to the end of November.

It will then have to be referred back to the National Assembly, which passed an earlier draft a year ago.

  • crracker.crackerr - 2012-11-01 22:25

    This country belongs to all its inhabitants. Pity even the DA fell for the nonsense that we need secrecies. What makes the privileged so important that they are allowed to know more than the rest of the country?

  • mark.a.fysh - 2012-11-01 22:29

    Don't lie, Cwele! You objected to keep yourself and your corrupt cronies out of gaol and to ensure the ANC stays in power.

      Juan - 2012-11-02 04:45

      ANC = dictatorship

      andrez.kolesky - 2012-11-02 08:50

      How many politicians does it take to change a lightbulb? Four, one to change it and the other three to deny it.

  • chris.summers.3954 - 2012-11-02 00:26

    Your wife is already in Jail, what do you have to hide that makes you push for this bill? How about some examples of these secrets that must be hidden from the public who pay your salary (in case you forgot)? We all know the truth, it's just another attempt at subverting the judiciary and general rule of law so you can continue to steal from the tax payers at will. The writing is on the walls though, Cosatu / NUM just had their wake-up call, and yours is coming as well in due time

  • Kaven Huang - 2012-11-02 02:37

    and there still people that think the current ruling party are angels that fight for the righteous and just. how oblivious can one be to ignore all these mountainous proofs that the ANC cant govern the country let alone governing themselves from their distorted greed!

  • ewald.kruger.7 - 2012-11-02 03:14

    WTF "was a bid to save it from being found unconstitutional"???? This man is as deluded as someone who swallowed 30 condoms packed with heroine which burst when he forced a fart.

  • juannepierre - 2012-11-02 07:04

    Of course he would.

  • DuToitCoetzee - 2012-11-02 08:20

    Come on Cwele!!!! It is not about the DA or any other opposition party anymore. We, the public, YOUR BOSSES, wants to know!!! It's our right!!! We will be the judges. You all are elected "employees" This is one "industry" that is F...up. You beg us for a "job", but as soon as we "employ" you, you all become the "employer's" BOSS!!!!!

  • luke.dekoker - 2012-11-02 10:38

    Cwele looks like you are running scared!! is you jailed ex going to release something about you to the press??

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