STATE Security minister Siyabonga Cwele has taken his fight against the inclusion of a public interest defence clause in the protection of state information bill to parliament’s second chamber.
Briefing the National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP) ad hoc committee, which is processing the bill, Cwele and his acting director-general, Dennis Dlomo, told MPs they remained opposed to the insertion of a public interest defence clause simply because no country in the world had done this.
“We don’t see such experience in the world, including Canada where it is a limited procedure because they did not have [a] protected disclosures act,” Cwele said. “So we stand by our statement in that and we won’t change.”
The NCOP’s ad hoc committee started processing the bill yesterday and it is set to embark on nationwide public hearings expected to start in the Western Cape on Tuesday and end in the Northern Cape in March.
The bill was passed by the National Assembly in November despite stiff resistance from opposition parties, the media and civil society bodies who had all objected to the omission of provision for a public-interest defence for publishing classified information. All eyes are now on the NCOP to see if it will heed calls for the inclusion of the public interest defence mechanism.
Chairman of the ad hoc committee Papi Tau urged MPs, mostly from opposition benches, to stop harping on issues that had been addressed in the National Assembly. He said they needed to be seen asking new questions or the perception that they were “rubber stamps” would not go away.
Tau said as NCOP MPs, they needed to ask how the “secrecy bill” would protect ordinary citizens from acts of espionage and information peddling.