ANC eases up on info bill
The ANC has announced further concessions on the controversial Protection of State information Bill.
When the National Council of Provinces ad hoc committee dealing with the bill resumed its deliberations on Wednesday, the ruling party agreed to delete three bitterly contested provisions from the draft law.
ANC MP Sam Mozisiwe confirmed his party stood by the removal of a line that would have sought to make the bill trump the Promotion of Access to Information Act -- a sub-clause widely branded unconstitutional.
Secondly, the ANC agreed to strike clause 49 from the bill. This section sought to ban the release of information relating to any state security matter.
Critics, including Cosatu, warned it raised the spectre of returning South Africa to a security state by drawing a veil of secrecy around the workings of the intelligence community.
Thirdly, the ruling party agreed to opposition calls to remove a provision that would have given municipalities the power to classify information.
The proposed amendments were welcomed by activists and the opposition, though both camps called for further changes still.
Democratic Alliance MP Alf Lees said the removal of clause 49 was "a very positive and major step forward".
The announced changes were agreed in closed-door talks between a small group of committee members. Chairman Raseriti Tau said this private process would continue this week in search of full consensus on the bill.
Wednesday's meeting was the first full committee sitting since August 7, when the department of state security reiterated its hawkish stance on the bill, but conceded that the final decision was up to legislators.
Tau told reporters a September 30 deadline for MPs to report on the bill to the NCOP was not cast in stone.
But he said he hoped Parliament would sign off on the legislation, which has been in the pipeline for two years marked by sustained public protest, before Christmas.
"I hope that if by then I get a call on how far we are with the bill, I can say the question is not how far are we, but how far is the president."