Protection of State Information Bill: Provincial public hearings and public submissions
The Chairperson noted that the pack of over 300 submissions on the Protection of State Information Bill (the Bill) had been circulated to Members. He realised that it was impossible for Members to have read and digested them all. For this reason, he suggested that the Committee move formally for the acceptance of the submissions in the meantime. Members would then have the rest of the week to go through the submissions, and should, by the following week, be able to identify who should be called to make oral submissions.
The office was looking at how best to put all these documents into the e-filing system, so that anyone could access them from the Parliamentary website.
He also noted that the Committee programme was very full. An extension had been sought, and granted, to 17 May 2012. Members were asked to discuss with their parties whether meetings could be held during the Constituency period, perhaps once per week, as it would otherwise not be possible for the Committee to complete its work.
Mr J Gunda (Northern Cape, ID) thought that these were reasonable proposals. He agreed with the suggestions to revert during the constituency period. He thought that perhaps more time was needed to consider the documentation, and thought the public hearings for 13 to 15 March should be postponed.
Mr R Lees (KwaZulu Natal, DA) agreed with the need to amend the programme; whilst recognising the effort put into arranging the public hearings, he also pointed out that Members would need to have read all documents before those hearings. He suggested that everyone who had made written submissions should be informed of the change, even if they were not finally invited to address the Committee in oral hearings.
Mr D Bloem (Free State, COPE) said that most of these submissions were short e-mails. He had managed to read them, and had shortlisted some whom he thought could be addressed today.
The Chairperson said that it was true that some submissions were short, some were repetitive and some were very general, and reaffirmed positions already stated in the provinces, but other submissions did contain concrete proposals.
Mr D Worth (Free State, DA) concurred that many of the submissions did not really take the matter much further, and no oral submissions would be required in these cases. He asked that the written submission from “Mr Steve Stuart” must be noted correctly as being submitted by “Mr Steve Swart”.
Mr T Chaane (North West, ANC) suggested that in view of the extension to 17 May, Members must study all submissions fully and discuss them thoroughly. He urged that sufficient time be allocated after the public hearings to allow the Committee to deal with all matters. The advertisement had called for oral submissions. He suggested that everyone should participate in the short-listing process.
Ms N Ntwanambi (Western Cape, ANC) believed that the programme should continue, as planned. She thought there would be problems if there was a postponement. She agreed that the constituency period should be used, but suggested that instead of arranging one meeting a week, it would be preferable to set aside several consecutive days to allow for a good block of time to devote to the discussions.
The Chairperson said that the comments of Members seemed to indicate that perhaps fewer oral presentations may be needed than were originally anticipated.
Mr Bloem agreed with that suggestions. He thought that it would not be necessary to postpone the hearings, but Members must agree who should be called to give oral presentations.
Mr Lees reiterated that if Members had to identify those giving oral presentations, then they would have to have sufficient time to read all the documents. He asked if any of those submitting written submissions had asked for the opportunity to give oral submissions.
The Committee Secretary noted that they had not.
Mr Lees then continued that it would be impossible to go through all submissions before Tuesday. He would support a proposal to postpone the public hearings into the constituency period.
The Chairperson suggested that Members should spend the time between now and Tuesday 13 March in considering the submissions, and should meet, but not hold public hearings, on 13 March, agree upon who should be invited, and set the dates.
Mr Gunda and Mr Bloem supported this suggestion.
Ms D Rantho (Eastern Cape, ANC) asked if those who may have presented in the provinces could be called again.
Mr Gunda suggested that those who had already met with the Committee in the provinces should not be invited again.
The Chairperson said that he did not wish to exclude this possibility, since the Committee had merely heard the submissions during the provincial hearings, but had not engaged with them. The Committee may wish to call for clarity on some points raised.
Mr Bloem asked if any new submissions would be allowed.
The Chairperson said that these would not be accepted.
Ms M Boroto (Gauteng, ANC) said that it might not be possible for some Members to attend during the Constituency period, although they should try.
The Chairperson asked Members to discuss this with their parties and to indicate any problems in the following week.
Mr Chaane suggested that the meeting to discuss the submissions be held on Wednesday 14 March.
Mr L Nzimande (KwaZulu Natal, ANC) noted that the KZN members would have difficulty in attending because the Division of Revenue Bill and Traditional Courts Bills were being debated on 14 and 15 March.
Mr Lees agreed with Mr Chaane that a Wednesday meeting would be useful. He had to attend to full days of constituency work on the following Saturday and Monday. All Members had planned to be in Cape Town on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, so this would allow them to use the whole of Tuesday for reading the documents.
Mr A Matila (ANC) indicated that six Members of this Committee were also involved in other Committees.
Members agreed to adopt the programme, with amendments, and agreed to meet on the following Wednesday 14 March.
The meeting was adjourned.
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