28 November 2012

NCOP prepares to vote on the Secrecy Bill

On 27 November 2012, the chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill (Secrecy Bill), Mr Raseriti Tau, issued a statement on the progress of the committee's progress on the Bill, immediately after the committees meeting.

The statement by Tau, highlighted amongst other issues; the lengths at which the National Council of Provinces committee engaged itself and the public; the over 1200 pages of written and oral presentations from individual, civil society organisations and political parties; noting a total of over 800 changes, all despite the Bill being a section 75 legislation, which are Bills that do not affect the provinces.

The chairman further lays out some of the problems the committee faced, the main concerns that were addressed and ends by taking the opportunity to thank all South Africans, various provinces, civil society, and media for their input.

The statement in essence signalled the end of the consultation process on the bill, in preparation for the voting that will take place on Thursday 29 November. If the majority of the committee vote in favour of the Bill, this will see it being escalated to the National Assembly, where if approved will be sent to President Zuma for approval.


Opposition response

Contrary to Tau's statement, opposition parties claim that the meetings were not as rosy as he claims it to be, with them walking out of the last meeting in protest to his call to vote on the Bill on Thursday.

Opposition parties argue that they have "not been given enough time to engage with the revised version of the Bill" and are not ready to cast their votes. They fear that without them not being given the chance to interrogate the Bill further, the majority party will simply vote in favour of the Bill, flaws and all.


Other responses

Critics of the Bill and in particular the Right2Know campaign are outraged by the announcement. They urge that "all members of the NCOP to remember the oath they took to uphold the Constitution and vote with their conscience rather than party loyalty to reject this Bill at Thursday's vote". Furthermore, R2K have said that the current Bill "still FAILS Right2Know 7-point Freedom test" and that they are prepared to take the matter to the Constitutional court.