Johannesburg - South Africa has proposed three measures
designed to update intelligence laws and oversight of the police's
graft-busting unit called the Hawks.
The government has said the measures are necessary and
prudent, while critics say they may be exploited for political ends.
The following are a few major provisions in the bills.
The protection of state information bill
- The bill is aimed at ensuring "a coherent approach to
protection of state information and the classification and declassification of
state information and will create a legislative framework for the state to
respond to espionage and other associated hostile activities".
- It applies to organs of the state. The state security
minister allows for classification and an independent classification review
panel provides oversight.
- Imposes penalties of up to 25 years for violations.
Illegal possession of classified material is punishable by up to five years in
- Any government agency, including state-owned enterprises,
could apply for classification of material they deem sensitive, hiding from
public view questionable contracts or troubles at their agencies.
* There is no public interest clause allowing a
whistle-blower to reveal classified data, even if it would expose criminality
or protect the public. It would also criminalise the release and possession of
- The bill would make the state security minister a
gatekeeper for secrets.
- Oversight is not sufficient to prevent abuse.
General intelligence laws amendment bill
- The bill streamlines the intelligence services by setting
up what it calls "national intelligence structures" with the
president appointing the heads of its agencies.
- It allows the structures to have jurisdiction over any
state security information under the state secrets bill.
- The bill would widen intelligence mandate, while limiting
those who control the flow of information to a small grouping around the
president who have almost no oversight.
- It would expand the ability of intelligence groups to
intercept domestic communication and make it possible to intercept foreign
communication without a court warrant.
Police service amendment bill
- The bill is designed to increase the independence of the
priority crime investigation unit, referred to as the Hawks, as mandated by a
Constitutional Court decision.
- The minister of police, a political appointee, would still
be able to interfere with Hawks investigations. The minister can suspend the
head of the Hawks as he sees fit, and then seek approval for the move from ANC-dominated
- Senior MPs can also request investigations and dictate
actions of the Hawks.
- Police ministry will have power to look into
investigations through a financial oversight clause and force officers off
cases through strategic redeployments.