'Secrecy bill' will mask corruption - opposition

Opposition parties on Thursday criticsed the passing of the so-called ‘Secrecy Bill’ in the NCOP.

Protection of State Information Bill.

CAPE TOWN - State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele on Thursday said the Protection of State Information Bill has been one of the most talked about pieces of proposed legislation both in South Africa and the world.

He addressed members of the National Council of Provinces before the draft law was debated and passed.

One of the key sticking points has been the African National Congress (ANC)'s refusal to include a public interest defence clause to protect whistleblowers.

Cwele said this is not necessary, as there is a mechanism which people can use to access classified information.

"The bill provides a public interest override. This is a simple mechanism which allows a person to apply to a head of organ of state to assess and declassify the information."

He added a public interest defence clause would be flawed.

"The problem with the public defence clause is associated risk, where any member of the public can decide what is in the public interest."

Congress of the People (Cope) Member of Parliament (MP) Dennis Bloem made a last minute plea to fellow Parliamentarians.

"We don't want our children and generations to come and spit on our graves and say 'here lays a traitor."

The Democratic Alliance (DA)'s Alf Lees said the bill will be abused.

"Given the extremely high levels of corruption that we see in government today, it is inevitable that the bill enacted will be used to cover up crime and corruption, by those who wish to escape exposure."