THE African National Congress in Parliament’s special ad hoc committee dealing with the "secrecy bill" dealt State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele a blow on Thursday by deleting provisions the minister had insisted should be retained.
The particular clause would allow that the Protection of State Information Bill to prevail over all other laws except the constitution itself. This would have meant that the secrecy bill would trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act.
In October the ad hoc committee of the National Council of Provinces removed the clause. Mr Cwele then attended the committee and asked for the clause to be reinserted, which was duly done. Now the in, then out, then in again clause has again been removed at the behest of the ANC in the committee.
In what was another blow for Mr Cwele, it was also suggested that a clause that would protect those revealing classified information in order to expose criminality should also be reinserted in the bill. In his October plea to the committee, Mr Cwele insisted that even this watered-down version of a public interest defence for those revealing state secrets should be removed from the draft law.
Now the committee is considering putting this protection for whistle-blowers and investigative journalists back into the bill. The move was welcomed by the Democratic Alliance opposition in the committee.
The committee has to complete its work by the end of November, which means the bill has only next week to be finalised and voted on in a plenary of the National Council of Provinces.
It would then be sent to the National Assembly for the National Council of Provinces amendments to be approved. The National Council of Provinces has made significant changes to the bill that was approved by the National Assembly earlier this year.