ANC bows to pressure on secrecy Bill
Although critics of the controversial Protection of State Information Bill applauded the ANC’s decision this week to make concessions on a number of bitterly contested provisions, it is set to make even more changes in a bid to appease the public.
An ANC document that was presented to some of the opposition parties revealed that the party sought to “reduce opposition to the Bill”.
The ANC has proposed the removal of minimum sentences for divulging classified information as well as removing the South African Police Service’s and the South African National Defence Force’s authority to classify documents. The party also proposed dropping the clause relating to the state security minister being allowed to delegate his authority to others.
The document said that provision should be made for members of the intelligence agencies to classify documents, but this would not apply to ordinary members of the police and the defence force. “This is to prevent SAPS station commissioners from classifying to conceal the abuse of power at their stations,” it said.
On removing the minimum sentences, the document said the courts’ discretion could not be ousted.
The ANC said it agreed with the Legal Resources Centre’s submission on the delegation of powers and, had this been allowed to stand, the state security minister would in effect be delegating his powers to other ministers. “The solution would be to require the extension of the Act to other organs of state to obtain parliamentary approval.”
The ANC document also said that it was important to exclude municipalities from classifying information because of the perception that the Bill would be used to conceal corruption. The ANC also decided to drop clause 49 of the Bill, which would have placed the state security department behind a veil of secrecy, leaving whistle-blowers with no protection.
Meanwhile, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said the party would not hesitate to tell President Jacob Zuma to send the Bill to the Constitutional Court for certification before assenting to it.