Secrecy Bill will protect us from the spies, says Cwele

Foreign spies who found it easy to access information in the past will not be happy when the Protection of State Information Bill is passed, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele told MPs on Tuesday.

“If I am a foreign spy—any legislation which makes my work harder won’t be nice for me,” Cwele told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) ad-hoc committee dealing with the Bill.

Information peddling was a “growing cancer” and laws did not exist to fight it, he said.

South Africa had to learn from other countries when it came to protecting state information.

“This is a growing cancer and we don’t have the legal [remedy] to deal with it,” he said.

“We have to learn from the experiences of other countries. We have to learn how they have dealt with their challenges.”

The department’s acting director general Dennis Dlomo, told the committee that the Bill was not meant to hide information from South Africans.

“We are not hiding it from our fellow South Africans… We are hiding it from those who are trying to harm our national interests,” Dlomo said.

“It is not as complicated as it is sometimes made out to be.”

He said if the head of an organ of state came across wrongdoing and the information was classified, they would be obliged to declassify that information.

“This Bill seeks to balance the need to maintain secrecy wherever and whenever necessary,” he said.

The NCOP’s public hearings on the Bill, passed by the National Assembly last November, are due to start in February.—Sapa

The passing of the Protection of State Information Bill came as no surprise, raising the threat to media freedom. View our special report.

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