Protesters take part in action against the Protection of State Information Bill in Johannesburg in November 2011.  Picture: THE TIMES
Protesters take part in action against the Protection of State Information Bill in Johannesburg in November 2011. Picture: THE TIMES

AFTER years of bitter political wrangling, this week is crunch time for the "secrecy bill", with the African National Congress (ANC) in Parliament’s upper house apparently determined to use its majority to push it through.

The ANC will also be at the centre of the other major issue this week as more branches and provinces complete their nominations for the party leadership for the Mangaung elective conference next month. The process concludes on Friday.

Opposition parties and civil society have battled with the ruling party for years to get some of the more offensive provisions of the Protection of State Information Bill changed or removed. While the bill bears little resemblance to the one originally tabled by State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, a coalition of civil society organisations have vowed to challenge it in court if it is approved in its present form.

Last week chairman of the National Council of Provinces ad hoc committee on the Protection of State Information Bill Raseriti Tau issued a statement saying: "Members of the multiparty committee have agreed on most of the proposed amendments. They have also agreed to disagree on some amendments."

The bill will be finalised at a meeting of the ad hoc committee tomorrow and is due to go before a plenary of the National Council of Provinces on Thursday.

But the Right2Know campaign said it remained committed to fighting for a just classification law that governs how the state should keep limited secrets.

"If Parliament fails to introduce the necessary amendments and President Jacob Zuma signs it into law, the Right2Know will take the fight to the Constitutional Court."

The key issues in the nominations process for the ANC are how many branches will endorse Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and whether Cyril Ramaphosa will agree to run for the deputy presidency on a "Zuma ticket".

Political commentator Adam Habib, writing in the Daily News, has described the branch nominations as fraught with controversy. "Branches are struggling to get quorums, having sometimes to meet three or four times before they can even have the required numbers of people to legally make nominations.

"But even more worrying is the suggestion that the nomination process is not free and fair. Branch membership lists are said to have paid up phantom members.

"In many cases intimidation and violence accompany the nominations process."

Mr Habib concluded that while the ANC has said it will deal firmly with any member who is involved in such acts, all indications are that this warning has not been heeded and that the process is fraught with threat and fear.

It will further be of interest to see whether National Assembly speaker Max Sisulu heeds a call from the Democratic Alliance to have Parliament recalled. The party’s parliamentary leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko, has called for such a move after further revelations appeared in the weekend press that Mr Zuma knew about the nearly R250m being spent on his Nkandla property.