25 July 2012

Spy bill back on the discussion table

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele is reportedly rethinking his refusal to engage with parliament or the public on the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (commonly known as the spy bill).

Speaking at a discussion on the bill hosted by the Institute for Security Studies on 25 July 2012, Minister Cwele's special advisor, Bob Mhlanga, said "...we have not completely shut out engagement. We will have to go back to the ad hoc committee and respond."

The statement represents a welcome change to the initial position of Minister Cwele and his department, which gave little deference to public submissions on the bill. On 20 April 2012 the chairperson of the ad hoc committee considering the bill indicated that Minister Cwele had informed him that there would be no response from the department or the Minister's office to the issues with the bill raised in public submissions. While there is no parliamentary rule or statutory requirement for the department to provide a response to public submissions, the failure to do so is unusual and many members of the committee expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision.

Minister Cwele's about-face may therefore reflect continued pressure from both civil society and members of the committee.

Deliberations of the ad hoc committee considering the bill were put on hold during May while budget votes were finalised and the committee has not resumed its work since that time.

Read SAHA's submission on the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill.