Protection of State Information Bill: Postponement of meeting due to non-attendance of opposition parties

Ad Hoc Committee on Protection of State Information Bill (NCOP)

14 November 2012
Chairperson: Mr R Tau (ANC, Northern Cape)
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Meeting Summary

Despite the fact that all parties (save for COPE) had confirmed that they would attend the meeting, when it was convened, only the ANC Members was present. The two DA and one ID Members had given an apology, as had the COPE Member. ANC Members indicated that whilst there was a quorum and the Committee could in theory proceed, it was clear that all parties wanted to give their input on the revised document setting out all amendments, and for this reason proposed that the meeting be rescheduled. They expressed concern at the delay, but assured the Chairperson that the ANC remained committed to continuing to negotiate on the Bill and reach the best possible solutions. Mr Mazosiwe, who had introduced the ANC’s views on the previous day, noted some negative media reports on the proposals for clause 43, and explained why the ANC had sought to include a maximum five-year penalty under that clause. The meeting was postponed, with another meeting arranged for the afternoon of 21 November.

Meeting report


Protection of State Information Bill: postponement of meeting
The Chairperson noted that a document had now been tabled with all amendments.

The Chairperson noted apologies from Mr D Worth and Mr A Lees, from the DA, Mr J Gunda from the ID, and Mr D Bloem from COPE. The only party present was therefore the ANC. He called for suggestions from Members on how to proceed.

Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC, Western Cape) stated that there was a quorum and the Committee could continue. However, she thought that perhaps the Committee should reschedule, as clearly all parties wanted to make input. She did, however, want to point out that on the previous day, the ID and DA members said they would be present. Only Mr Bloem, from COPE, had indicated that he would have to check his diary. The apologies from the DA and ID were only tendered at around lunchtime today, and this not proper, and seemed to be aimed at delaying the process. Everything had been prepared and the meeting was scheduled.

Mr S Mazosiwe (ANC, Eastern Cape) concurred that there was agreement of all parties to meet today. He did not think that the Committee should lose hope. He proposed that the meeting be postponed. The Committee believed that an inclusive process would strengthen it; the ANC had been prepared to negotiate with the other parties, inside and outside this meeting, to reach something closer to what the parties wanted. He felt that the Committee had gone quite far and yesterday’s meeting was positive.

However, he did want to comment that media reports had criticised the ANC for its proposal to include the maximum five-year sentence under clause 43. The reason this was included was that the ANC did not want to open up the clause even further. It had been substantially debated, and it was flexible enough to deal with reports on corruption. If the ANC had not proposed a maximum sentence of five years, it could have opened the door to prosecutions under clauses 36, 27, 38 and 40, where the maximum period was far greater than that proposed for clause 43. The ANC did not want to be unduly harsh for clause 43, and he was sorry that he had not had a chance to explain this on the previous day, but hoped that this now gave more clarity. He added that many people were fairly satisfied with the final product, although some people did not feel it went far enough.

Mr Mazosiwe suggested that the meeting be deferred to 21 November 2012, in the afternoon, when the Committee should attempt to finalise the Bill.

Mr T Chaane (ANC, North West) agreed with the suggestions. He requested, firstly, that at the next meeting, Members should be allowed to make some technical corrections to the document tabled. Secondly, he wanted to place on record that throughout the process, ANC had been consistent in ensuring that engagements were taking place in Parliament, in formal meetings. There were still some outstanding issues and the process today was supposed to allow the parties to reach consensus. About 90% of the issues noted as “not agreed to” were matters tabled by opposition parties, and this was supposed to be a platform for those parties to convince the ANC on the issues. The ANC viewed their non-attendance as delaying the process, and he pleaded that they should not continue to do so. Whilst he understood that opposition Members had other commitments, it was strange that these surfaced only this morning, when there was other work to be done. The ANC would wait patiently, but could not wait for ever.

Mr Chaane hoped that the media would note that the DA was not present. The opposition parties had, unlike the ANC, been engaging with the media, outside of the meetings. This was a tactic that was taking the Committee backwards. The ANC would continue to engage inside.

The Chairperson noted that, with the agreement of Members present, the meeting would be postponed, until 21 November, to allow other political parties to be a part of the meeting. He hoped that the parties would agree to that. The National Assembly’s last sitting was on 22 November and the Committee had originally hoped that the Bill could be submitted back to the NA before then, but this was now not possible. He asked the Committee Secretary to ensure that all the opposition Members had the document.

Ms M Boroto (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked for amplification of “not agreed to” in the document. She was not sure which parties had not agreed, or whether all parties had agreed. This should be clarified before the next meeting.

Mr G Dixon, Committee Secretary, agreed he would do this. Where the opposition parties made proposals, these were not agreed to by the ANC. He would, however, clarify the other matters.

The meeting was adjourned.


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