30 March 2012

SAHA's open letter to NCOP on 'secrecy bill'

P O Box 31719
Braamfontein 2017
South Africa

Tel: (011) 717 1941
Fax: (011) 717 1964

e-mail: foip@saha.org.za

Physical address: William Cullen Library
University of the Witwatersrand


OPEN LETTER TO THE Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill (NCOP)


30 March 2012

Mr. G. Dixon

Committee Secretary

Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill

By email: gdixon@parliament.gov.za


Dear Mr Dixon,

Re: Presentation to the NCOP Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill

I note with regret the decision of the NCOP Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill to exclude the South African History Archive (SAHA) from the list of individuals and organisations invited to make an oral presentation to the committee in respect of the bill.

Since the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) was introduced in 2000 to bring into effect the constitutional right of access to information in South Africa, SAHA has been one of South Africa's foremost civil society experts in access to information. SAHA is therefore well positioned to provide essential analysis of the relationship between PAIA and the Protection of State Information Bill under consideration by the committee.

The relationship between the bill and PAIA was largely overlooked by the Ad Hoc Committee of the National Assembly and has received little media coverage, primarily because the relationship is a complex one that is not well understood. It is therefore disappointing that SAHA has not been afforded the opportunity to present its submission on the various ways in which the current draft of the bill contains deeply concerning implications for the right of access to information to the committee and answer any questions the committee may have.

Even more disappointing is that the selection of those invited to make oral presentations appears to have been determined without reference to the content of the written submissions. The committee's response to the submission of the Alternate Information Development Centre (AIDC) made in Parliament on Wednesday 28 March 2012 suggests that the committee did not review written submissions before determining which organisations were invited to make oral submissions.

The members of the Ad Hoc Committee prevented Mark Weinberg, AIDC, from finishing his oral submission on the basis that the content was 'political'. In a statement released subsequently by the Parliamentary Communication Services on behalf of the chairperson of the committee, the committee expressed its 'disappointment' at the submission and its focus on 'political ideologies and political landscape of South Africa'.

The committee's apparent surprise at the content of the submission is confusing given that it directly reflects the content of the written submission of AIDC, which comments on 'the growing influence of conservative authoritarianism' and the 'weakening' of the 'alliance of the wounded cobbled together pre-Polokwane'.

That the committee selected AIDC as one of only 17 organisations and individuals invited to make oral submissions of the 263 written submissions it received without apparently being aware of the content of the submission is deeply worrying.

In light of these developments, SAHA is concerned that the committee has not reviewed all of the 263 submissions it received and is therefore providing the committee with a further copy of its submission and urging that the committee review same.

SAHA remains willing to provide clarification or further information concerning its submission either orally or in writing at the request of the committee.

Yours sincerely,

Catherine Kennedy,


Also: Read SAHA's submission to the NCOP regarding the secrecy bill.