ANC, DA agree to amend 'Secrecy Bill'

While the ANC and DA are willing to compromise on changes to the bill, COPE has disagreed.

A copy of the controversial Protection of State Information Bill. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Wednesday it would be amenable to a compromise of sorts over a highly contentious proposed amendment to the Protection of State Information Bill.

The African National Congress (ANC) wants the so-called 'Secrecy Bill' to override the Promotion of Access to Information Act because the two pieces of legislation are in conflict with each other.

The Promotion of Access to Information Act is the constitutional right to access any information held by the state or another person that is required for the exercise or protection of any right.

This was a sticking point at an ad hoc committee meeting dealing with the draft law on Wednesday.

The ANC's Teboho Chaane said additional wording to a clause in the bill could help.

"If we agree on the amendment 13, we are prepared to consider dropping 1.4 from this bill."

During the meeting, Members of Parliament (MPs) could agree on certain points surprisingly swiftly, but there were heated moments.

Ruling party MPs implored the opposition to agree to tradeoffs.

The DA's, Alf Lees said that this could be a solution.

"The principle of the pier override is just unacceptable. The additional wording in clause 13 may fund acceptance."

But Congress of the People (Cope) parliamentarian, Dennis Bloem said tradeoffs on critical issues at this late stage in deliberations cannot be accepted.

"You can't make tradeoffs. Any proposed legislation that seeks to display the clear provisions of pier also violates section 32 of the constitution."

It also seems the ruling party won't agree to include a public interest defence.

Meanwhile, civil society group Right2Know staged protests outside Parliament this week against the bill.

Right2Know has also accused the ANC of sending mixed messages regarding the bill.