ANC scraps disputed Secrecy bill clauses
THE ANC has tabled further concessions in Parliament on the controversial Protection of State Information Bill, including scrapping a clause that gave municipalities wide-ranging powers to classify information.
The ANC has also dumped a clause that sought to criminalise the publication of information related to the functioning of security agencies such as the National Intelligence Agency.
At a meeting to resume deliberations, the ruling party yesterday introduced three crucial amendments to the "secrecy bill" such as the deletion of a line that would have made the bill trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act, a sub-clause widely branded as unconstitutional by bodies such as Cosatu and Freedom Under Law.
Presenting the proposals before a multiparty ad hoc committee that is processing the bill in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), ANC MP Sam Mazosiwe described the proposed amendments as a "major leap forward".
"We are tabling an amendment that excludes municipalities to classify documents. we are saying that this a major leap forward to what we originally had. We believe that take into account the views of the public and also the views of the committee in so far as making sure that our democracy prevails in all of our activities," said Mazosiwe.
He said the ANC has also decided to scrap the contentious section 49 of the bill, which sought to prohibit any disclosure or publication of matters relating to the state security bodies.
"We are proposing that this proposal be deleted completely from the bill. We are a democracy - we have to make sure the bill we are passing is also in conformity with our democratic values, ideals and so on."
But Alison Tilley of Right2Know said while the deletion of section 49 was a "significant gain in terms of transparency", she was worried that the ANC was still not prepared to budge on the calls for the inclusion of a public interest defence clause in the bill.
Opposition MPs welcomed the ANC's proposed amendments, saying "they were a major step in the right direction".
The amendments were agreed to in behind-closed-door discussions between the ANC and a small group of MPs from the DA, Cope and the IFP.
The bill was passed by the National Assembly in November last year during a sitting in which almost all opposition MP voted against the bill while some ANC MPs abstained.
The NCOP's ad hoc committee has a deadline of September 30 to report back to Parliament's second chamber before the secrecy bill can be finalised.