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ANC steamrolling Secrecy Bill through NCOP

Alf Lees, DA Member of the NCOP for Kwazulu Natal
13 November 2012

Today was the final meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill. The ANC has made controversial amendments at the last minute and now plans to steamroll the Bill through the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Despite previously agreeing to remove the controversial clause 1(4), the ANC has now backtracked and will agree to the proposal by the Department of State Security to have this clause reinserted. This would allow the Secrecy Bill to trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and would make the Secrecy Bill the be all and end all on whether state information can be accessed.

In addition to this, the ANC proposed two new amendments to the Bill at the very last minute.

To do this at the eleventh hour undermines and delegitimises the deliberative process as well as Parliament itself.

The Bill is scheduled to be debated in the NCOP on Thursday. However, the last-minute amendments to the Bill are significant enough to warrant full communication to party caucuses in advance of the reading. If the Bill is debated on Thursday, party members will not have sufficient time to deal with the Bill and decide on a position.

The DA will appeal to the Chair of the Council that the debate be postponed to allow for sufficient time to deal with the latest amendment. I will be writing to the Chair of the Council outlining our concerns around the deliberations which occurred today and the fact that this process has been flawed.

The DA maintains our position that this Bill is unconstitutional and the ANC’s sudden backtracking on certain amendments has undermined our attempts at bringing the Bill in line with the Constitution.

This Bill cannot be steamrolled through the NCOP.