The Right2Know campaign today expressed its shock at the proposed schedule for finishing work on the Secrecy Bill, and called for the Committee to scrap the Bill. A proposed schedule being circulated among committee members suggests that the Bill may be debated for another four meetings, and then voting to adopt a position on the Bill.
“We’ve seen the proposed schedule for wrapping up the Secrecy Bill, which suggests four more deliberation meetings of the Committee will do the trick,” said Alison Tilley on behalf of the campaign. “No amendments have yet been tabled, and one of those meetings will do nothing but try to get the various opposition party positions clear, without the ANC tabling anything until the subsequent meeting. The committee therefore have to do a line by line reading of the Bill, and deal with the wording of all proposed changes in just two meetings.”
“It is this type of planning that has caused the discussions on the Bill to go in circles in the Committee,” said Tilley.
The Right2Know campaign has repeatedly called into question the Committee’s readiness to deal with a Bill as dangerous and far-reaching as the Secrecy Bill. The position of the ANC is not clear on many of the major issues raised by civil society and the opposition, let alone the minor drafting issues that have not yet even been discussed.
In light of the mounting unresolved problems with the Bill, the campaign believes that withdrawing the Bill to be redrafted from scratch is the only feasible solution.
Furthermore, in the event that the committee attempts to go ahead with the current schedule – passing the Bill to the National Assembly by 24 June – the Right2Know campaign will return to mass action to highlight and expose our MPs’ cavalier approach to this disastrous Bill and apparent willingness to ram through anti-democratic legislation.
• The Bill still promises to cast a veil of secrecy across the public sector, covering 1001 institutions, including municipalities, universities and parastatals such as Eskom.
• The Bill still promises outrageously harsh prison sentences for journalists who expose secrets in the public interest. There is no public interest defence.
• The Bill will still penalise everyone in the ‘distribution chain’ of leaked information (i.e. it will be a crime to receive a state secret). It should only be the official who breaches classification that should be penalised.
• The Bill was never submitted for a cost assessment as required by the Public Finance Management Act. This may be an impossible task, since the Bill’s applications are so wide.
• The committee has failed to correctly categorise the Bill, thereby excluding the National Council of Provinces from deliberations
• There is no independent oversight for the making of secrets. In the current version of the Bill the Safety and Security Minister is responsible for reviews.
Copy of proposed schedule for Protection of Information Bill
• Friday 15 Apr – deliberations
• Tues 19 Apr – deliberations
• Tues 24 May – deliberations
• Fri 27 May – deliberations
• Fri 3 June – voting on proposed amendments
• Fri 10 June – final consideration of amendments
• Fri 17 June – adoption of report
• Fri 24 June – Report to be debated in the House