29 November 2012

South Africa: NCOP Set to Debate Secrecy Bill That Remains a Secret

press release

Today, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will be debating the Protection of State Information Bill without having seen copies of the amended Bill. That this is allowed to happen shows the ANC's contempt for the parliament as a democratic institution and for its core responsibilities as a legislature and for overseeing executive action.

The ANC's handling of this bill through the parliamentary process has been rushed and in the last week certainly also procedurally problematic.

There was no unanimous decision on the committee report as opposition parties refused to adopt a report which was given to them at the very last minute. In fact it was not even the last minute, it was half an hour after the committee started its meeting to discuss the report.

In addition, a motion was tabled today to suspend rule 239(1), the so-called "three day rule", which provides that the consideration of a Bill may not commence before at least three working days have lapsed since the committee's report has been tabled.

Members of the committee have not yet received an amended Bill.

Yet, the NCOP is supposed to debate it this afternoon.

In a functioning democracy and parliament, we would have received the Bill in advance so that members of parliament can make informed decisions and have an informed debate on it.

The ANC clearly has no respect for the legislative process or parliamentary procedure or alternatively is deliberately trying to obscure the details of this potentially destructive piece of legislation in fear of continued backlash from voters and civil society.

Members of Parliament make decisions on behalf of the South African public. It is utterly nonsensical that a decision on a Bill which the DA believes to be unconstitutional and will have far-reaching implications for South African society, will be debated without anyone having seen it.

The Leader for the DA in the NCOP, Elza van Lingen, has this morning written to the Chairperson of the NCOP, the Honourable Mahlangu, to request that the debate be postponed so that all members of the Council have sufficient time to examine the Bill and the report of the Ad Hoc Committee.

Alf Lees

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