South African Committee Begins Work on POIB

29 October 2010

The committee considering the controversial Protection of Information Bill in South Africa delayed the start of its detailed consideration of the bill over a procedural matter as thousands marched in opposition to the bill.

Parliamentary action on the bill is expected to resume Nov. 1. The  “snag” was described in an Oct. 29 by Thabo Mokone in The Times as concerning whether the bill was properly “tagged.”

Mokone explained: 

Tagging refers to the classification or categorising of a bill for parliamentary processing depending on its implications for national and provincial governments. If a bill contains proposals that could affect provinces, it should be processed by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces.

Cecil Burgess, chairman of the ad hoc committee processing the bill, told MPs that parliament has obtained legal opinion on the tagging of the bill.  But that opinion could not be released until National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu returns on Nov. 1 from China to sign off on it, Mokone reported.

But Democratic Assembly MP Dene Smuts said the bill is was applicable to provinces and municipalities and called in incofrrectly tagged.

During the week, opponents of the bill protested it in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.  On Oct. 27, there was a march on Parliament.

 The Right2Know coalition in a statement said:  

Inside the halls of Parliament today, our demands have finally started to reverberate. R2K notes a first discernable shift in the tone of the ad-hoc committee processing the Bill. In particular, ANC MP Vytjie Mentoor’s statement that “you cannot sacrifice human rights at the altar of state security or the altar of secrecy” signals hope for a counter-current to Ministry of State Security, whose securocratic preoccupation has dictated the tone of the debate in the committee to date.

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