Cape Town — President Jacob Zuma on Thursday referred the controversial Protection of State Information Bill back to the National Assembly for redrafting on two sections.
Zuma said he had arrived at the conclusion that the bitterly contested bill would not pass constitutional muster.
"I have referred the bill back to the National Assembly for reconsideration in so far as sections 42 and 45 lack meaning and coherence, and consequently are irrational and accordingly are unconstitutional," he told members of the parliamentary press corps at a lunch meeting.
The statement caused considerable confusion.
Zuma declined to explain why he thought the sections problematic and, as numbered in the final version of the bill adopted by the National Assembly, they did not tally with those set out in an explanation subsequently provided by his office.
It appeared that Zuma in fact referred to sections 45 and 48.
Section 45 criminalises the improper classification of state information and provides for prison sentences of five to 15 years, depending on the level of wrongful classification.
Section 48 stipulates that the written authority of the National Director of Public Prosecutions is needed to institute charges in respect of any crime under the legislation that carries a jail term of five years or more.
Shortly after Zuma announced his decision, Speaker Max Sisulu informed the National Assembly that an ad hoc committee would be established to deal with the president's reservations on the bill.
Rising to address the Assembly, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said the ANC welcomed the president's decision because it would strengthen the legislation.