Protection of State Information Bill: Adoption of Committee Report and Bill as amended

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

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

The Committee had agreed, at the previous meeting, that it wanted to adopt a Report on the Bill, at the current meeting. The Chairperson noted that, due to delays in the Committee Section in having the draft Report signed off, it had only been made available to Members now. He suggested that the meeting be delayed, to allow everyone a chance to read and check the Report.

The COPE Member immediately objected, taking issue with the fact that it was assumed that the Report would be able to be fully read and digested in that short time frame. He said that he would not be prepared to stay in the meeting, should it proceed. The DA stressed that the Report sought to capture all the discussions over the past year, but there was no way in which its Members would be comfortable with being required to check every amendment in the next 15 minutes, and proposed that another meeting be arranged to adopt this Report. The ANC countered that the Report was merely a factual statement of what amendments had been agreed to, and which were rejected, and that no debate was required, and felt that the process must continue. The Chairperson noted that Members had agreed to this process at the last meeting, but the DA raised a point of order that they had not agreed to the draft Report only being presented this morning. He ruled that the Committee would, after a short break, continue, and the COPE, DA and ID Members left the meeting. The IFP was not represented in the meeting.

The Committee Secretary pointed out that the Report was in two parts, the first reflecting the amendments agreed to and the second recording the proposals of opposition parties that were not agreed to. After a break, the ANC Members indicated that they believed the Report to be correct and eight Members voted to adopt it, with no abstentions. The ANC held a caucus to debate when the Bill would be presented to the House, and decided that it should be debated.

Meeting report

Protection of State Information Bill: Adoption
The Chairperson noted that there had been a procedural problem in the Committee Section, and delays in having the draft Report (the Report) signed off, with the result that it could not be forwarded to all Members in advance of the meeting. He suggested that this meeting be adjourned for about 15 to 20 minutes, to allow Members to go through the Report.

Mr D Bloem (COPE) proposed that another meeting be arranged to finalise the Bill. Sufficient time was needed to deal with the Report, which was quite complex.

Mr S Mazosiwe (ANC, Eastern Cape) understood that all the amendments had been finalised at the previous meeting, and all that Members would be required to do today was to consider the adoption of the Report. It was a factual document setting out the amendments already agreed to. He could not agree that parties should run through the entire Bill again, as this process had already been done. The ANC felt that the process must continue.

Ms D Rantho (ANC, Eastern Cape) noted that the Committee had been interacting on the Bill for the last year. All parties knew on what areas they agreed, and disagreed, and knew of the amendments. She agreed that Members merely needed to read the report, check that the points were properly reflected in the document, and that should not take more than 20 minutes.

Mr D Lees (DA, KwaZulu Natal) agreed with Mr Bloem’s objections. He thought the Report needed to capture all the work that the Committee had done, over more than a year. There was a short discussion on what had to go into the Report at the last meeting. In his view, the Rules were quite clear. There was no way that the parties could, over the next fifteen minutes, confirm that all the amendments were included, and that all the views of the parties were properly reflected. This Report could be a unanimous Report of the Committee, as it was a report on what had been done over the last year. It was indeed not a discussion on the Bill, but a factual report on what had occurred, although it would include the views of the minority.

The Chairperson said that he had made his earlier suggestion in an attempt to progress matters forwards. However, he noted the dissent. He reminded Members that in the previous week, the Committee did not proceed with finalising the Bill because the Members felt that the documents in front of them (list of matters agreed to, and not agreed to) could not form the basis of this Report. Now that today’s document had been prepared, he felt that there was no reason no to continue. It had been agreed, at the last meeting, that the Committee section must compile a report. The only area where there might be discomfort was the delay, and he explained that although the Report had been drafted, there were delays in having it processed and quality-checked by senior staff in the Committee Section. The purpose of this meeting was to allow the Committee Secretary to take Members through the Report. However, he was sorry to see that Members were acting prematurely, and raising problems around the process, rather than focusing on the content of the Report. He had suggested that some time be allowed for Members to go through the Report themselves, prior to the Secretary outlining the content and only then would the process issues come to the fore.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) said that this Bill was very serious. Members could not do justice to the Report nor the Bill by going through it in a short space of time. It raised some very serious matters and Members had to apply their minds fully. As an ID Member, he would have to show the Report to his party, yet he had received it only this morning.

The Chairperson said that the Committee had already agreed to go through the Report at this meeting. Again, he noted that Members were commenting on the content, which created the impression that Members had therefore already had the chance to go through what was outlined in the Report. He noted that, on the basis of the Committee decision last week, he would ask the Committee Secretary to take Members through the Report.

Mr Bloem objected, saying that he was not prepared to be part of the meeting if the Report was to be discussed now, and if this procedure was followed, he would leave the meeting.

The Chairperson reminded Members of their decision taken last week, and said that he was not comfortable with the fact that parties were now reneging on their decision to adopt the Report today. He had thought that all parties would abide by their decisions from previous meetings. Only if they were uncomfortable with the content should they raise issues, but at the moment Members were contradicting their own earlier decisions.

Mr Lees objected, raising a point of order that the Chairperson was now misleading the Committee. The Committee had not agreed that the Report would be tabled only on the morning of the meeting.

At this point, the COPE, ID and DA representatives left the meeting. The IFP had no representative present.

The Committee Secretary then explained the procedure for the adoption of section 75 Bills by the NCOP. The NCOP Committee would draw a list of the amendments that it proposed (the “C” list), which, after adoption by the House, would be referred to the NA and be used to produce the new Bill.

He noted that the Report was structured in two parts. The first, headed “A: Proposed amendments” set out the amendments that had been agreed to by the Committee. He explained that only the changes of wording were reflected, and not entire clauses. The numbering had changed quite substantially; for instance the original clause 14 had been changed, during the debate, to clause 10, but because originally-numbered clauses 4 and 5 were now deleted, the new numbering would reflect this as clause 8. The amendments made in the last meeting were now also included.

He then pointed out that the second part, “B: Amendments considered by the Ad Hoc Committee but rejected by it” contained the opposition parties’ proposals, explained the minority view and the reasons for the majority decision to reject the proposals. In some places it had not been necessary to repeat the minority and majority view because this related to what had been stated earlier.

He added that the drafting of the Report was largely a technical issue, because the Report simply enumerated what the Members had agreed should be inserted into and deleted from the original Bill. At the end of the day, it would become a Committee Report, so it was up to the Members to accept or reject the content of this Report.

The Chairperson asked whether the Committee was ready to proceed.

Mr L Nzimande (ANC, KwaZulu Natal) reminded the Chairperson that Members needed a few minutes to go through the content of the Report.

The meeting was adjourned for ten minutes, to allow Members to read through the Report.

On resumption, Mr T Chaane (ANC, North West) noted his impression that this Report was a true reflection of the Committee’s decisions on the Bill, since it had been referred to the this Committee. The amendments appeared to be correctly reflected.

Mr Mazosiwe said that the Committee had come far in dealing with the matter, and the ANC was happy to have reached this stage.

The Chairperson confirmed that the correct process had been followed and put the Report to Members for adoption.

Members adopted, seconded and voted unanimously to accept the Report, which set out the amendments to the Bill. Eight ANC Members voted in favour, with no abstentions. None of the opposition parties was present.

The Chairperson noted that the next stage would be that the Report was placed on the ATC.

Ms D Ntwanambi (ANC, Western Cape) proposed that the Bill be debated in the House, and this was seconded by Mr Chaane.

The Chairperson then noted that the Committee would still need to adopt the minutes of previous meetings. The life of this Committee would end once the Bill was adopted by the House, and it was necessary to adopt the Minutes before 30 November.

Ms Ntwanambi agreed that it would not be a problem for this Committee to meet for the adoption of the minutes.

The Committee agreed to meet on Thursday 29 November to adopt the minutes of past meetings.

Ms Ntwanambi proposed an ANC caucus to discuss when the Bill should be tabled in the House.

The meeting was adjourned.


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