ANC CAUCUS'S DECISION ON THE PROTECTION OF STATE INFORMATION BILL
The Parliamentary Caucus of the African National Congress today held its scheduled meeting to reflect on a wide range of political matters facing the movement in Parliament.
Amongst the many pressing issues on the Caucus's agenda was the draft legislation on the Protection of Information Bill, which continues to be the subject of intense national discourse. As with any draft Bill concluded by the relevant Committee and scheduled for tabling in the House of Parliament, Caucus received a detailed presentation on the Protection of Information Bill, which formed the basis for comprehensive reflection by our Members of Parliament.
The discussion, characterised by robust and frank engagement, sought to assess and evaluate whether the draft Bill is ready for processing in the National Assembly in its current form.
Caucus noted with great appreciation the effort, dedication and remarkable devotion with which our members in the Ad Hoc Committee steered this Bill to the quality draft it is today.
The draft Bill as it stands is a culmination of a truly democratic process - which entailed extensive public consultation with a wide range of representatives of our society, public debates and robust engagement amongst political parties in Parliament.
All of the Bill's 51 clauses have been thoroughly and carefully examined during at least 65 meetings held by the Ad Hoc Committee, and many significant changes were made in the process. The Bill has undergone over 123 amendments, which makes what we have currently a complete redraft of what was first submitted to Parliament in 2008.
Caucus thanks all political parties for their effort, civil society representatives and individuals for making their submissions and opinions through either formal or informal means on this Bill.
We note that despite extensive consultations and improvements effected on the basis of submissions from stakeholders, there are still interested parties who need further hearing as well as other parties who have made late submissions.
The ANC is of the view that these voices should be heard. The ANC Caucus has therefore decided not to table the Bill tomorrow in order to allow Parliament to engage further. This will afford Parliament an opportunity to report back to the people during the forthcoming constituency period.
Further consultations and debates should therefore continue on the Bill with a view to further enhance the quality of the current Draft. The consultations will involve ANC MPs taking the proposed legislation to the people through constituency work scheduled for next week, further discussion internally and with other political parties, and engaging views from the broader society.
Caucus is fully alive to the fact that, given the diverse nature of our society and our multiparty parliamentary system - it is rare for laws to be a product of unanimous agreement amongst all parties. However, it is our responsibility as the ruling party to continue leading the process in such a way that it is inclusive of as many views as possible. This is consistent with our endeavours to ensure that we remain true to our resolve to continue enhancing the quality of the legislations this institution passes.
The Chief Whip of the Majority Party will therefore, in line with the decision of the Caucus, withdraw the Bill from the Parliamentary Programme of the 20th September 2011. All political parties in Parliament are currently being consulted in this regard.
Statement issued by The Office of the ANC Chief Whip, ANC Parliamentary Caucus, September 19 2011
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