Info bill might be delayed

2012-05-04 17:12

Parliament - The May 17 deadline for MPs to finalise the contentious Protection of State Information Bill may again be postponed.

Raseriti Tau, the chairman of the National Council of Provinces committee working on the bill, on Friday urged members to isolate the main arguments raised in recent provincial and parliamentary hearings on the draft act, saying this should allow them to conclude their deliberations in June.

Tau later scrambled back when asked about shifting the deadline for reporting to Parliament on the bill.

"I don't want to talk about extensions. We are trying our best to work within the limited timeframe," he told the media.

Tau also refused to comment on the possibility of amending the bill, though it is reliably understood that at least some changes are on the cards.

This would see the bill sent back to the National Assembly to approve those amendments before it could be signed by President Jacob Zuma.

Democratic Alliance MP Alf Lees said the deadline had to be moved back to allow the committee to right serious problems that remain with the bill.

"I have that no doubt that we will go on after May 17."

The committee on Friday convened to accept a report summarising the overwhelmingly critical commentary on the so-called "secrecy bill" from the hearings.

Alison Tilley, from the Open Democracy Advice Centre, said it was heartening that the committee had taken the trouble to compile the input and planned to mull it in deliberations next week.

Over four days of hearings in Parliament in late March, veteran human rights lawyer George Bizos led a chorus of warnings that the bill was unconstitutional. Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi vowed to be the first to launch a legal challenge unless it were redrafted. Vavi said the bill would take South Africa back to being a security state, a concern that has been amplified by the wide powers given to controversial crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

Like Bizos, Vavi called for a public interest defence to be written into the legislation to protect whistleblowers and journalists who risked long prison sentences for disclosing state secrets that cover up corruption.

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela told lawmakers the bill, if it were passed, would derail her work and undermine more progressive information laws.

This week Nobel literature laureate Nadine Gordimer took the debate abroad when she told the New York Times Review of Books the legislation was a threat to freedom of expression and should be rejected in its entirety.

  • Toofaan - 2012-05-04 17:59

    The info bill in it's current form is a worse evil than e-toll. Just because it does not directly affect their pockets does not mean that people should not oppose it just as vigorously.

      Lacrimose - 2012-05-04 21:16

      Even more vigorously as the consequences are hidden, unquantifiable, catastrophic and worst of all, irreversible.

  • Glyn - 2012-05-04 19:06

    E-tolling was beaten by public action. This totalitarian KGB/Nazi law will be beaten as well. Vote DA to guarantee freedom of speech!

  • Anton - 2012-05-04 20:10

    Secrecy Bills being passed. Government Officials enriching themselves at the expense of the people they are meant to serve. Racial discrimination. Political protests. Uprisings. Talk of a “third force”. Scores of kids (largely Black) in high-school and still unable to read, write, or do basic math. Healthcare dismally failing the masses, etc. etc. Remind me again of the critical differences between this Regime and the Apartheid Administration? Democracy doesn’t translate into a right to cast a vote. It translates into the power to bring about change.

      Jay - 2012-05-05 12:46

      Dear Anton, Sadly the Democracy that South Africa represents through a ruling party that has a MASS VOTE of around 66% odd of the electorate. The majority (90% of them rural & illeterate) of these very ANC voters have NOT BENEFITTED anything meaningful after 18 years of ANC Rule. What has the ANC Vote brought for them? Prosperity? Better Life? Added to this quite a few "open-minded - New Generation ANC voters are only NOW wawkening to a FAILED, MORAL-LESS, CORRUPT, INEPT, FAT-CAT PARTY that has gone BACKWARDS. Whilst I respect MADIBA who has not intervened, SURELY the time has come for MADIBA, TUTU, BIZOS, VAVI, MADONSELA & RAMAPHOSA and the likes to SPEAK UP AND EXPOSE / ALERT the WORLD about the regression & decay. Only then will the MASS ANC Voters exercise the REAL POWER of DEMOCRACY. By this I mean, VOTE for ANY OTHER PARTY but the ANC. I Rest My Case.

      John - 2012-05-06 19:07

      If this bill is passed the etol is a certainty because then they can do anything with impunity

  • Ngwana - 2012-05-05 18:15

    Let's deal with with e-tolling first, then will deal with info-bill later.

      frederick.bremner - 2012-05-06 15:57

      if you let it slide they could bring it in under your nose. stop it now with all you have while stopinf e-toling.

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