ANC retracts some secrecy Bill concessions

The ruling party re-inserted a provision for a minimum jail sentence of 15 years for espionage, a crime which would carry a maximum sentence of 25 years. It denied claims it was also reneging on an agreement that, in order to convict somebody of spying, the state should prove that the accused intended to benefit a foreign country.

The Democratic Alliance on Tuesday said the ANC had agreed in a closed-door meeting to remove the phrase "ought reasonably to have known" in relation to this offence, as with all others created by the draft law. The wording has been widely criticised as creating such a low standard of liability that those charged under the new legislation could be jailed for mere negligence.

"They are certainly back-tracking on espionage," DA MP Alf Lees said.

The chairperson  of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) committee processing the Bill, Raseriti Tau, disputed this. "There was an agreement that regarding espionage it will remain like that and we will remove the reverse onus from all other offences."

He said it was justified in the case of espionage to lower the burden of proof, given the gravity of the crime. The latest working document circulated on Tuesday also indicated a change of heart from the ruling party on the bitterly contested clause 43, which criminalises the publication of classified information.


After more than two years of wrangling on that clause, the ANC recently agreed to extend the limited protection offered to whistle-blowers. It did so in part by inserting a sub-clause affording whistle-blowers protection from prosecution if disclosure is authorised by any law.

This was welcomed as a considerable improvement on earlier drafts, which merely allowed for disclosure in terms of the Protected Disclosures Act and section 159 of the Companies Act.

The latest proposal excludes reference to other laws, and replaces it with a sub-clause allowing disclosure if it "is authorised by an internal mechanism as may be provided for by the minister in regulations".

"That is much narrower," commented Alison Tilley from the Open Democracy Advice Centre.

The committee faces a September 30 deadline to complete deliberations on the Bill and report to the NCOP. It has been granted several extensions already, but Tau is adamant that Parliament will sign off on the measure before Christmas.

As debate dragged on into the evening on Tuesday, MPs agreed to set aside the espionage and other problematic causes and return to them later. – Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Related stories

ANC and the state step back from taking action against Zulu king’s land trust

Despite alleged abuses of power and people’s trust, the ANC appears to have abandoned plans to reform the controversial Ingonyama Trust Board

Gordhan threatens to go to court as tensions with Sars ripple

Pravin Gordhan says he will go to court to protect himself if necessary as Zuma and ANC express confidence in the finance minister.

Parly prepares for Zuma impeachment debate

MPs will debate a motion of impeachment against the president on September 1 for allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to leave South Africa.

Brics summit to deepen ties between member states – Zuma

The 7th Brics summit this week will see a deepening of relations in the emerging markets bloc as member nations sign a range of new agreements.

SANDF deny SA troops held hostage over Bashir saga

The defence force rejected reports that South African National Defence Force troops in Darfur were threatened to prevent the arrest of Omar al-Bashir.

Salga declares dispute with Treasury over Eskom debt

The Local government Association declared a dispute with Treasury to release of R1-billion to 39 municipalities whose funding is being withheld.
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

DRC: Tshisekedi and Kabila fall out

The country’s governing coalition is under strain, which could lead to even more acrimony ahead

Editorial: Crocodile tears from the coalface

Pumping limited resources into a project that is predominantly meant to extend dirty coal energy in South Africa is not what local communities and the climate needs.

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Flushing toilets were installed in backyards in the North West, but they can’t be used because the sewage has nowhere to go

Nehawu leaders are ‘betraying us’

The accusation by a branch of the union comes after it withdrew from a parliamentary process
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…