Info bill review limited to 2 days

2013-10-05 07:27
(Dan Calderwood, News24)

(Dan Calderwood, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


Zuma sends info bill back to Parliament

2013-09-16 09:14

President Jacob Zuma has sent the Protection of State Information Bill back to the National Assembly over concern that two sections in the bill are unconstitutional. Watch.WATCH

Cape Town - MPs have been allocated only two days to review the protection of state information bill, suggesting limited scope for changes to the contentious official secrets legislation.

In a parliamentary programme sent out on Friday, the first meeting of the ad hoc committee appointed to review the bill has been scheduled for next Wednesday.

It is due to adopt its report the next day, 10 October. The report will then go to the National Assembly for consideration.

The so-called secrecy bill was approved by the Assembly in April amid warnings by lawyers that it was unconstitutional and threats by rights groups to take it on legal review.


Last month, President Jacob Zuma sent it back to Parliament for amendments instead of signing it into law, saying he believed it was unconstitutional and singling out two clauses as problematic.

But the wording of Zuma's brief to Parliament has prompted debate as to how wide a mandate to redraft he has given MPs, and hope among lobby groups that it would open at least a backdoor for substantive changes.

A fortnight ago Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko wrote to Zuma demanding he stipulate whether MPs were meant to confine their deliberations to sections 42 and 45.

She said this week she was still waiting for a reply and would take legal advice on compelling the president to provide clarity.

On Friday Mazibuko objected to the limited period set down for dealing with the bill, and said she believed any haste would be dangerous because the legislation remained flawed.

"The secrecy bill remains a highly controversial and contentious piece of legislation. It simply cannot be rushed through Parliament," she said.

"It would be highly embarrassing for the institution and for all MPs should it be found again to be unconstitutional."

Mazibuko said Parliament should postpone the meeting until clarity had been given by Zuma as to the precise terms of the review.

It would undermine this critical process to proceed with this meeting on the assumption that the referral was confined to sections 42 and 45 given how vague the president’s letter to Parliament was in this regard. The terms of the referral needed to be properly clarified before the committee could begin its work.

The presidency could not immediately be reached for comment.

Technical changes

If changes to the bill are confined to the two sections Zuma mentioned, they will prove to be of a technical nature.

The problem with one of these provisions was pointed out to Zuma by DA MP Dene Smuts and Steve Swart of the African Christian Democratic Party.

They argued that section 45 had been rendered meaningless, and in their view unconstitutional, by a punctuation error.

The section crucially seeks to criminalise wrongful classification of information, and was seen as a hard-won safeguard against the potential abuse of the legislation to cover up state wrongdoing. But the two opposition MPs argued that the omission of a full stop after a sub-clause meant no crime was created.

The bill's many opponents have made plain that they would not be satisfied with merely correcting this.

They say despite the ANC's staged retreat from the draft law's most regressive provisions during the drafting process it still raises the spectre of excessive state secrecy reminiscent of the apartheid era.

Read more on:    lindiwe mazibuko  |  jacob zuma  |  cape town  |  parliament 2013  |  info bill

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X 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
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

Traffic Alerts
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.