South Africa Sets June Deadline for Secrecy Bill

1 March 2013

Final action on the “secrecy bill” in South Africa has again been delayed.

The ad hoc committee of the National Assembly has been given until June 20 to finish its work on the  Protection of State Information Bill, which would regulate the classification of state information.

The most recent action on the bill was its passage by the National Council of Provinces on Nov. 29, 2012, with some amendments considered to be improvements.

A Mail & Guardian article said, “A source close to the National Council of Provinces committee claimed that it was unlikely that the National Assembly would reject the council’s amendments.”

Critics say the bill is unconstitutional and continue to push for amendments, such as a clause to protect those who publish information which they deem to be in the public interest. The Opponents say they will seek to amend it when it returns to the National Assembly.

Key Points Controversy Emerges

In the meantime, attention has been focused on the government’s refusal to disclose information about so-called “national key points” – places “so important that its loss, damage, disruption or immobilization may prejudice the Republic.”

A report commissioned by Right2Know (R2K), the non-governmental organization leading the fight against the secrecy bill, showed that the number of key points has increased by more than 50 percent in the last five years, from 118 in 2007 to about 182 last year. Also drawing attention was the government’s use of the law to deny a request for information about the cost of renovations to the president’s residence, which is a key point

The opposition Democratic Alliance has proposed changes to the law to clarify the criteria for designating key points, to allow for legislative review and to create a publically accessible register.

See a report on this in Business Day and another report by Chandre Gould by the Institute for Security Studies.

Right2Know recently released its “Secret State of the Nation” report.

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