A Speech by Hon Mr. Siphiwe Sam Mazosiwe (MP) on the Occasion of theConsideration of the Protection of State Information Bill [B 6B-2010] (Section 75)

29 November 2012

Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP Hon. Mahlangu
Honourable Minister of State security Hon. Cwele
Honourable Chief Whip of the NCOP Hon. Ntwanambi
Honourable House Chairperson of the Ad-Hoc Committee on the Info Bill Hon. Tau
Honourable Members of the NCOP
Special Delegates
Distinguished Guests

I want to start by saying -"yonke into inexesha layo" meaning"there’s a time for everything".

As the Chairperson of the Ad-hoc Committee of the Protection of State Information, Hon. Mr R. J. Tau (MP) has indicated to this house the painstaking democratic process that this Bill has gone through since it was referred to this house; we have now reached the moment of truth.

For some this moment has come too soon because despite all their delaying tactics and publicity stunts the time has now arrived for us to legislate.

Honourable Chairperson, On behalf of the African National Congress (ANC) I wish to thank all the members of Ad-hoc committee for their valuable contributions; the various stakeholders for sharing with us their insight on the short-comings of some of the provisions in the Bill and lastly but not the least - our fellow South Africans - who took time to attend the public meetings and gave us the mandate to get rid of the Apartheid era "Protection of Information Act (Act No. 84 of 1982)".

As the ANC that is exactly what we shall do here today. For us; when we do this very important work we are guided by whether the amendments we are proposing assist us to strengthen our governance institutions without compromising our constitution.

It is thus my submission Honourable Chair that we have done our best to strike that balance whilst incorporating the concerns raised by various stakeholders.

Honourable Chairperson, I wish to now spend some tome demonstrating how we have sought to achieve the above. In the Preamble we have inserted the following wording - "Accepting that the right to access to information is a cornerstone of our democracy"

In Chapter 1, we went even further by deleting clause 1 (4) in the definitions; which was perceived as a provision that seeks to trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Act No.2 of 2000), which is also known as PAIA.

In recognition of the separation of powers between the Judiciary and the Legislature; whilst section 36 of the constitution acknowledges that access to certain state information may be restricted we have left it to the Courts to adjudicate when there’s a conflict between this Act and other access to information-related legislation.

Again Honourable Chairperson in Chapter 2 on the General principles of State Information read together with Chapter 3 on the Policies and Procedures, the ANC further sponsored an amendment of clause (5) and (7) respectively to strengthen the functioning of Chapter (9) institutions as provided in section 181 of the constitution.

The general principles as provided for in Chapter 2 clearly affirm that transparency and openness underpin this Act however there’s acceptance by everybody that -"certain State information needs to be classified" for National Security reasons.

As the ANC, we believe that these changes have covered the genuine concerns raised during the public hearings in so far as the Constitutionality of the Bill is concerned.

It is only a few that still opposes the Bill because they have ulterior motives which I don’t have the luxury of time to deal with now; suffice to say that as the African National Congress we have a privilege and responsibility to govern; therefore we want to be reasonable and balanced when we act.

Honourable Chairperson, a lot of misinformation and disservice to our people has been around this subject matter in relation to this Bill. This behaviour led by the D.A. and their financial backers is not borne by the facts as I will show.

The media has also failed to play a role of educating our people about the intentions of this Bill. A false argument has been repeated time and again that this Bill seeks to hide corruption; particularly at a municipal level without any attempt to show us which provision seeks to do that. Let me point out to those that have not read the Bill that Chapter 1 - [Application of the Act]; the so-called "opt-in clause" clearly states that this provision will not apply to Municipalities and Municipal entities.

Again in Chapter 5 on the Conditions for classification, it is stated that classification of state information cannot be used to conceal breaches of the - "Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Act No.12 of 2004)" or any other unlawful act or omission; incompetence; inefficiency or administrative error. Honourable chair this is indeed a very comprehensive provision which says that you can’t hide behind classification and in fact it is an offence to do so.

Section 19 on the request for access to classified information and status review even goes further and compels the head of an Organ of State to de-classify such information once it is established that it was not done according to the conditions.

Honourable Chairperson, I do not understand how these provisions escaped the attention of the media and the opposition; unless this was a deliberate ploy to mislead our people so that they can fulfil their obsession of pursuing their own agenda.

Lastly and most importantly chairperson on Clause 43 on theDisclosure and possession of classified information says that if the classified information in the possession of any person "reveals criminal activity" then such a person cannot be imprisoned in term of this Bill.

Therefore chairperson, we ask that all our people should give themselves time to read this Bill as a whole. As the African National Congress we are of the view that this product is reasonable; implementable and has included concerns raised by all reasonable South Africans.

I thank you!