04 May 2012

Spy bill deliberations on hold until end of May

The Ad Hoc Committee of the National Assembly considering the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (known as the spy bill) will not meet again until after the budget votes are finalised on 31 May.

The committee last met on 20 April and were scheduled to meet again on 4 May. However, the meeting was cancelled, without explanation, and the committee secretary has advised SAHA that no further meetings will take place until after the finalisation of the budget votes.

Given that the committee is mandated to complete its work on the bill by 8 June, this delay suggests that the committee intends to give little consideration to the public submissions made on the bill. We can therefore expect few, if any, amendments to the bill to come out of the committee.

Public submissions on the bill were also given little deference by the Minister of State Security and his department. The Chairperson of the committee reported on 20 April that the Minister had informed him that there would be no response from the department or the Minister's office to the issues 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 of the department.

The refusal by the department and the Minister to respond to the public submissions and the limited time allowed by the committee to consider the bill suggests that the ANC wishes to rush the bill through parliament, perhaps while the public is distracted with the controversial secrecy bill (Protection of State Information Bill), also currently being considered by Parliament.

Read SAHA's submission on the spy bill.