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South Africa: State Security Ministry Welcomes Information Bill
Source: www.sanews.gov.za
Source Date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Focus: Knowledge Management in Government
Country: South Africa
Created: May 22, 2013

The bill further provides for the classification, reclassification and declassification of sensitive information which later becomes accessible.
“By repealing the apartheid classification act of 1992 and criminalising espionage and hostile activities against the republic, the bill would contribute to an improved national security status of the republic,” it said.
Since the introduction of this bill in 2010, it has undergone a number of welcomed amendments, which were done through a protracted process of engagement with various stakeholders in Parliament and in civil society.
“It is our view that this process has enriched the bill, creating a better balance between the constitutional provisions of access to information and the limitation of that access in the interest of advancing our national security,” the ministry said.
The additional strengthening of whistle blowers' protection and exposing corruption and other illegal activities are some of the important features of this bill.
“The concerns around the public interest defence have also been considered and accommodated within reason, although some have argued these do not go far enough,” the ministry said.
Earlier in the day, opening the debate, the Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele, said the legislation had been subjected to public hearings and extensive redrafting.
The Bill addressed the legitimate concerns raised by the public, he said.
“The Protection of State Information Bill seeks to strengthen our democracy, while balancing security and protecting our national interest.”
Alluding to the journey that the Bill had taken, Cecil Burgess, chairperson of the National Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of Information Bill, said it was first introduced in 2008 by the then Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils.
Now, almost five years later the Bill was before the National Assembly in a born-again version.
“We are satisfied that the Bill is in line with the Constitution,” he said.
However, Lindiwe Mazibuku, leader of the Democratic Alliance, the biggest opposition party, warned that the Bill undermined the democratic values of freedom and openness. “In our view this Bill does not pass constitutional muster.”
She said that the fight was not over. Opposition parties would petition President Zuma not to sign the Bill into law and send it back to the House of Assembly, failing this they would take it to the Constitutional Court.
“The fight is not over yet. The fact remains that this Bill is still flawed.”
The Bill went through three years of drafting and changes since a different version was first approved by the National Assembly in 2011. On Wednesday, the National Assembly Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill unanimously adopted a committee report.
The Committee also unanimously accepted amendments made by the National Council of Provinces. This acceptance cleared the way for the Bill to be sent to the National Assembly to be voted upon.
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