Date to Vote on Secrecy Bill in South Africa Postponed

10 June 2011

The ruling African National Congress has delayed a planned June 24 vote in Parliament on the proposed Protection of Information Bill in the face of widening opposition.

As reported by Brendan Boyle in The Times:

The ANC has buckled to pressure from alliance partners and a former cabinet minister and has extended the deadline for finalisation of the controversial secrecy bill before parliament. But there was no sign this week that the party would relent on its insistence that anyone leaking state secrets should go to prison regardless of the motivation for their action.

The Independent’s Gaye Davis wrote:

ANC took its foot off the accelerator in its determination to drive the Protection of Information Bill through Parliament this week, conceding the need to extend the deadline in the face of a crescendo of criticism.

Luwellyn Landers, the ANC’s chief negotiator on the ad hoc committee handling the bill, said June 3 the life of the committee should be extended into mid-August.

The Times and other media reports attributed the slowdown to a strong statement of opposition from the Council of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). The statement was reported by Business Day.

Former intelligence minister, Ronnie Kasrils, who submitted the first draft of the bill while he was in then President Thabo Mbeki’s cabinet in 2008, criticised the ANC in an open letter for hurrying the process, The Times reported. “Discussions at parliamentary committee stage so far have not inspired public confidence that the issues have been sufficiently canvassed and considered,” he said.

In addition, Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman has become the first prominent businessman to criticize the government for its handling of the bill, as reported by Business Day.

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