Revised Committee Report on Protection of State Information Bill, with Minister of State Security in attendance

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

08 November 2013
Chairperson: Mr C Burgess (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met briefly to consider its revised report as well as the minutes of the previous meeting.  The Minister for State Security was in attendance.

The Committee Report was being reconsidered as it had to be adjusted to include a paragraph on the textual corrections raised by the State Law Adviser (SLA) regarding the Bill. The Minister asked that the Committee clarify that two types of adjustments were being made i.e. the necessary amendments the President had wanted and the textual corrections that were picked up by the SLA and Members. Members deliberated on whether the IFP’s view had to be included in the Bill. Some Members stated that the IFP Member had been in favour of the Bill and it was unnecessary to state it in the Report. It was agreed that it the IFP was not in favour of the Bill, it would be stated in the Report.

The Report was unanimously adopted with the necessary amendments to be made.

Meeting report

Opening Statement
The Chairperson noted that there were technical challenges in the venue, as there were no microphones. He welcomed the Minister for State Security, Mr Siyabonga Cwele, to the meeting, and said that although the Committee did not yet have quorum, Members should continue to look at the minutes from 30 October 2013.

Consideration of Committee Minutes dated 30 October 2013
The Chairperson reminded the Committee that there was a debate in the last meeting about what should be captured in the minutes from the minority point of view. There did not seem to be any controversial areas in the minutes, as it tried to capture everything. Members had to look through the document and make necessary recommendations. A small amendment had to be made to number the pages.

The Chairperson postponed deliberations on the minutes to welcome Mr S Abram (ANC) and Ms D Smuts (DA) to the meeting. He thought that Ms Smuts had apologised and was not going to attend the meeting. Mr Abram had been called to attend the meeting for the purpose of quorum.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that all Members of the House were allowed to attend any meeting of any Committee. Rule 134 gave the Chairperson the power to co-opt Members to the Committee. Once this was done the Member would have the same powers or rights as the other Committee Members. Therefore, he co-opted Mr Abram as a Member of the Committee.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) informed the Chairperson that Mr Abram had left the meeting.

The Chairperson stated that since he had not finished co-opting Mr Abram, the process was not valid.

Mr Sonto pointed out that Ms S Sithole (ANC) would be entering the meeting shortly.

Mr J Maake (ANC) queried whether Minister Cwele could be co-opted as a Member of the Committee.

The Chairperson answered that there was nothing in the Rules about it; however, it seemed to be a conflict of interest. Using his discretion, it seemed that doing so would appear irregular.

Continuation: Adoption of Minutes
The Chairperson noted that there were no changes for Page 1.

Ms Smuts directed the Committee to page 2 and suggested a minor grammatical adjustment. She also noted that the last paragraph, which spoke to the DA and ACDP’s shared view on the matter of the Bill, had to be clearly stated.

The Chairperson stated that the paragraph, which ran on to page 3 of the minutes, would be amended.

The Chairperson asked Members if there were any other changes that should be made. He noted that there were no objections, and the minute was adopted with amendments. The Committee Secretary would make the necessary adjustments.

Committee Report on Protection of State Information Bill
The Chairperson informed Members that the Committee Report was the same as the one considered on 30 October 2013; however, a paragraph was added at the end of the Report to include technical errors identified by Mr Enver Daniels, the State Law Adviser, in the Bill. It was Mr Daniel’s view that the errors should be considered separately from the rest of the amendments in the Bill. The question that arose was how the Committee should report those errors to the House. The advice that was received was to include the errors in a supplementary report. The Committee debated this matter and decided that the current Report would be adjusted. He asked the Committee to turn their attention to the last paragraph of the Report, as they had already approved the rest of it.

Minister Cwele warned that the Committee was making ad hoc amendments to the report. There were two types of amendments – there were necessary adjustments that had to be made to the Bill, and then there were textual amendments. This had to be clarified or the Committee could end up with problems. He did not want people to think that the Committee was making amendments “willy-nilly”.

Ms Smuts said that the Minister was correct; however she did not think that the Committee could make adjustments to the Bill without calling them amendments. But, for purposes of the Report, the Committee had to be clear about the amendments or textual corrections. She asked that an amendment be made to one of the paragraphs to clarify that both the DA and ACDP objected to the process of amending the Bill.

Mr Sonto asked what the objection meant for the Report.

Mr E Sogoni (ANC), who had joined the meeting, queried how the DA could speak for the ACDP.

Ms Smuts replied that the Committee knew the ACDP’s position well, as it had made itself clear in the previous meetings.

Mr Maake agreed, adding that the Report was only capturing what had happened.

Mr Sonto asked if the DA’s objection meant that the Committee should have requested a mandate to deal with punctuation errors in the Bill.

The Chairperson stopped the conversation, saying that these discussions had happened already and were just being captured in the Report. It was common cause that the ACDP and the DA were opposed to this process. The issue was whether to include the IFP’s view of the Bill or to leave it out of the Report.

Mr Maake noted that Mr M Oriani-Ambrosini (IFP) had referred to the process as a “cleaning of the Bill”, so he was in favour of the Bill and it should be included as such in the Report. With this, he moved for the adoption of the Report. 

Minister Cwele agreed that Mr Oriani-Ambrosini seemed to be in favour of the Bill.

A Member stated that the Report should only mention parties that opposed the Bill, not the ones that were in favour of it.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee could agree that if Mr Oriani-Ambrosini voted in favour of the Bill, it would be fine, but if he voted against it, it had to be captured in the Report.

Mr Sonto reiterated that Mr Oriani-Ambrosini was in favour of the Bill.

The Chairperson responded that the being in agreement was not the same as voting in favour of the Bill.

The Chairperson asked if Members had identified any other issues in the Report. He took the Committee’s silence as an indication that there were none.

Mr Maake moved for the adoption of the Report with the necessary amendments.

Ms Sithole seconded the adoption.

The Chairperson noted that no one opposed the adoption - the Report was unanimously accepted.

The meeting was adjourned.


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