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Durban - There was a “real risk” that the Protection of State Information Bill would have to be reprocessed from scratch because it was procedurally unconstitutional - it had been incorrectly tagged as a bill which did not affect provincial government, but it did, opposition parties said on Thursday.
The bill, which was introduced to Parliament by State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, was passed by the National Assembly in November 2011 and then forwarded to the National Council of Provinces for consideration.
ANC MPs rammed the bill through the NCOP at the end of last year, and it is now back with the ad hoc committee of the National Assembly.
On Thursday, Parliament’s senior legal adviser, Ntuthuzelo Vanara, said the National Assembly committee’s work would be limited to making proposals to only relevant suggestions or amendments that were made by the NCOP.
“The reason for this is we don’t want to at this stage introduce amendments which will change the classification of this bill,” Vanara said.
IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini questioned whether the constitution would trump, as he argued it should, the parliamentary rule 270 which stated that the committee could at this stage merely accept or reject amendments made by the NCOP.
“Can the (parliamentary) rule take away the constitution?” Ambrosini said.
But the issue of the bill being “tagged” as a Section 75 bill, despite its affecting provincial archiving, was a sticking point for both the IFP and the DA.
“Parliament should not legislate on provincial archives and public record-keeping at all because it is exclusively a provincial competence,” DA MP Dene Smuts said.
“Alternatively, the bill should have been processed as a Section 76 (bill).
“Yes, there is a real risk. The Communal Land Rights Act was declared invalid because it was not processed as a Section 76 (bill).”
Ambrosini sometimes felt “Parliament is scripted by Monty Python”, referring to the seemingly haphazard order of doing things.
He said the constitution would have to take precedence over parliamentary rules and it was possible that the bill would have to be withdrawn and processed from the beginning.