Cwele slams Cope, DA

The State Security Department denied it was trying to muzzle debate on the info bill.

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - The State Security Department is not trying to muzzle debate on the proposed Protection of State Information Bill, Minister Siyabonga Cwele said on Thursday.

Speaking in Parliament, he lambasted Congress of the People (Cope) and Democratic Alliance (DA) ad-hoc committee members for what he called "false accusations".

In November, the contentious bill was approved by the National Assembly despite an outcry from non-governmental organisations and the media.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) then set up a committee and several public hearings were held around the country.

The committee recommended that several amendments be made to the proposed law.

On Tuesday, the State Security Department appeared before the committee and opted to reject most of the amendments.

Officials said the inclusion of the public interest clause would jeopardise state security.

Meetings scheduled for the rest of this week were cancelled to give political parties time to study a State Security Department document on their responses.

Some members of the opposition members said they were frustrated by the department's interventions.

DA Member of Parliament (MP) Alf Lees said he was disappointed.

"Despite all the input from civic society groups and political parties, we've now been given a new document from the State Security Agency, which seems to be taking precedent over everything else."

However, Cwele said the committee agreed to the adjournment.

"As a department, we were invited by the committee to comment on issues which were raised during the public hearing. As a department, we respected that committee and we went there twice."