Spy clause delays info bill

2011-09-02 08:01

Cape Town - The ANC's plans to finalise drafting of the protection of information bill were upset on Thursday after the opposition complained that a new amendment introduced higher standards and harsher prisons sentences specifically to shield intelligence matters from disclosure.

The DA's Dene Smuts said it made no sense that disclosure of classified information carried a maximum prison sentence of five years, but disclosing classified information relating to intelligence work was now punishable with 15 years.

In the case of disclosure to a foreign state, the maximum penalty rose to 25 years, following the latest demand from the ANC.

"It is a complete discrepancy and makes no sense," Smuts said.

Harsher sentence

A harsher sentence of 10 years for disclosing intelligence information was proposed by the IFP's Mario Oriani Ambrosini on Wednesday night, in an attempt to get the ANC to relent on its long-held insistence to criminalise disclosure of any state security matter.

The ANC position was widely criticised because it would open the door for intelligence agents to draw a veil over any aspect of their operations and thereby again widen the scope of the legislation.

In return for the stiffer sentence proposed by Oriani Ambrosini, it agreed to his amendment that "a state security matter" can only be contained in a document that is classified under the new law.

On Thursday, the ruling party rejected opposition calls to lower the sentence to five years and to narrow the clause by making it applicable to intelligence agents who revealed such information.

ANC MP Luwellyn Landers dismissed the notion that originally the aim of this clause was purely to deal with the security risk posed by double agents.

ANC 'won't give in on this'

"We are not going to give in on this. We can't," Landers told Sapa.

"It is not just aimed at intelligence agents. What about sources, people under witness protection."

With no agreement in sight, Cecil Burgess, the chairperson of the ad hoc committee drafting the bill, adjourned deliberations until Friday morning.

Rights groups, which have criticised the bill as an attempt to put more power into the hands of the government's security cluster, are also objecting to the amendment.

Time for further compromise is running out as the ANC wants to put the bill to the vote in the National Assembly within the next two weeks.

  • werner.coetzer - 2011-09-02 08:35

    Can someone in the know maybe just explain this bill in stupid language to me?

      http404 - 2011-09-02 08:44

      A quick answer would be that they want to imprison journalists for making 'confidential' information available to the public. That way, they can classify all their screw-ups and cover-ups as confidential.

      werner.coetzer - 2011-09-02 15:30

      So basically we are moving back to a police state

  • arthur.amgen - 2011-09-02 08:51

    We are not at war! We have no enemy on our borders! Unless the ANC are at war with South Africa. The only reason the ANC need this bill is to hide the Arms deal and numerous other past, current and future corruption. Maybe it is better we do not know. Therefore we can not get upset when corruption is exposed and no one but no one is prosecuted. Like Zuma783 and co.

  • Badballie - 2011-09-02 09:17

    The people of South Africa deserve this, its pay back for selling your country out. Not only will you suffer the whims of the dictatorship of the ANC you will be investigated and prosecuted by the Hawks, a police organisation officially declared illegal and a violation of our constitution but who a year later are still in office and conducting official police business.

  • Leoster - 2011-09-02 09:22

    I remember a time when our votes were contested for. The time people were told that the Government is serving the people and not vis a vis. Directors of a company account to all holders of equity, why can't the Government account to the us taxpayers on matters concerning the use of our tax contributions? Because after all, it's all about how our taxes are spent. I see the DA capitalising on this, the same way Hellen did when she put all her affairs in public for scrutiny and people wondered why General Bheki couldn't do the same. Our ANC is shooting itself in the foot by doing this. People will start asking themselves, what is it that they want to hide so much. First the Scorpions then this!!!..SACP is being made irrelevant by Malema....I feel like running away.

      arthur.amgen - 2011-09-02 09:28

      We all feel like running away. The ANC are imploding.

  • Da.Liva.Delvira - 2011-09-02 10:05

    Ag yes like it!!! Secrets in the government... Bad enough that they don't pay taxes.... South African people have the right to know what's going on in the government!!! Don't take this country further down!!! America has this crap and look at how they keep fooling the world with wars!!! If the government can have secrets then WE as SOUTN AFRICANS can have secrets too and not share any information about whether we pay taxes or stole a cow or etc!!! Animal Farm, by George Orwell... This is what's happening in South Africa... Wish people read that book... I know I did in the old education system...

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