ANC: We didn't impose secrecy Bill on SA

The ANC had never sought to impose the Protection of State Information Bill on its members and society, its parliamentary Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said on Friday.

Civil organisations and the media took to the streets to decry the Protection of Information Bill, which the National Assembly voted in with 229 votes. The M&G takes a look at the protests across the country.
He said the ANC had initiated internal debates within the peace and stability national executive committee (NEC) sub-committee and the corresponding study group in Parliament.

“In both these forums ANC members were offered opportunities to debate the desirability and otherwise of the Bill and the principles underlying it.”

He said in both forums members engaged one another and sought to reach consensus. The same approach was adopted within the executive.

“When sufficient consensus was achieved, the Minister of State Security, Comrade Siyabonga Cwele, tabled the Bill for consideration by the relevant portfolio committee in Parliament.”

He said the ANC’s detractors had sought to use the process leading to the passage of the Bill by the National Assembly to entrench their perception that the ANC was divided.

“This perception was reinforced by the fact that some individuals who once served in the Cabinet or constitutional development structures of the ANC opposed certain aspects of the Bill.”

He said when the ANC was on the point of tabling the Bill, the campaign against it intensified and claims had been made that the ANC in and outside Parliament was divided on the Bill.

“The NEC advised caucus not to rush the Bill in the light of the rising opposition and the perception that the ANC was divided.”

He said the ANC postponed tabling the Bill in the National Assembly and embarked on an internal democratic process to ensure that the ANC in and outside Parliament were united—and that the public—especially the silent majority—was given the opportunity to express themselves on the Bill.

“We also ensured that the public participation process is inclusive of all South Africans, regardless of political affiliation, who sought to make inputs,” Motshekga said.

ANC beefs up committee
Meanwhile, In a bid to keep a tight rein on the processing of the Bill in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) the ruling party has deployed several senior members to a new ad hoc committee that will work on the proposed legislation.

The council resolved this week to establish the committee after the Bill was passed by the National Assembly and referred to the council for concurrence.

The committee is comprised of 15 members—10 from the ANC, two from the Democratic Alliance and one each from the Inkatha Freedom Party, Congress of the People and the Independent Democrats.

A source close to the process told the Mail & Guardian that the ruling party had nominated senior MPs, including NCOP chief whip Nosipho Ntwanambi and the NCOP chairperson of committees, Raseriti Tau, to ensure that the party retained control of the political content of the Bill.

The source, who was not authorised to comment officially, said Ntwanambi will be the whip of the committee and her deployment will also provide a direct link to Luthuli House. Two other sources said the ANC had not been happy with the handling of the Bill while it was being processed by the National Assembly’s ad hoc committee. - Sapa and Staff reporter

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