State Security Agency wants South Africa’s controversial ‘secrecy bill’ back on the table

The State Security Agency (SSA) wants the controversial Protection of State Information Bill – commonly referred to as the ‘secrecy bill’ – to be reintroduced.

In his 2019 budget speech, deputy minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa said that the bill should be reconsidered and worked-on during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s current term of office.

“We recommend that the Protection of State Information Bill (POSIB) be reconsidered, or referred to the Constitutional Court to provide an opinion on the constitutionality thereof, in order for review processes and the requisite amendments to be applied within the timespan of the 6th Administration,” he said.

Various iterations of the bill have been considered by the government in the past; however, work seemingly stopped in 2013 after President Jacob Zuma sent the bill back to the National Assembly for reconsideration.

The primary purpose of the bill was to “ensure a coherent approach to the protection of State information” as well as the “classification and declassification of state information”.

It also sets out procedures on how classified documents are to be handled during court proceedings and requires courts to prevent public disclosure of classified documents that form part of court records.

While Kodwa did not indicate why the department wanted the bill to be reconsidered, or what changes may be made to the bill to bring it in line with the Constitution, the reintroduction of the bill is likely to bring heated debate.

The bill came under intense scrutiny from opposition parties and civil society groups for parts in it that undermine the right to access information and the rights of whistleblowers and journalists.

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State Security Agency wants South Africa’s controversial ‘secrecy bill’ back on the table