Ambrosini Writes to the Speaker to Stop Secrecy Bill

16 October 2013    


IFP Member of Parliament, Dr Mario Oriani-Ambrosini has delivered today the letter sent out below:




16 October 2013



The Honourable Max Sisulu MP

Speaker of the National Assembly

Parliament of the Republic of South Africa







Dear Mr Speaker:


I am writing with reference to the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Protection of State Information Bill, published in the ATC of 15 October 2013.


For the reasons set out hereinafter, I submit to you that the Report is flawed and in violation of the Rules of the National Assembly, and therefore incapable of forming the basis on which a debate in the National Assembly may be held.


When the draft Report of the aforesaid Ad Hoc Committee was tabled before that Committee, I requested that, in terms of NA Rule 251(3)(e), the Report specified in which respect there was no consensus on the Bill and expressed any views of a minority in the Committee. I indicated the views that my Party intended to be expressed in such Report namely that –


(1)  while the Committee had correctly held that the Committee itself had the power to review the entire Bill, as set out in Section 79 of the Constitution, rather than merely addressing the concern of constitutionality expressed by the President, the Committee wrongly refused to allow the review of the Bill and any consideration beyond a few chosen grammatical matters;


(2)  while the Committee, in going beyond the concerns of the President, saw fit to correct some orthographical mistakes in the Bill, it wrongly failed to address glaring problems with the syntax of the Bill, as in the case of Section 20;


(3) The Committee wrongly refused to consider the problems of constitutionality of the Bill identified in the opinion of Adv. Anton Katz which was submitted to the President. 


I submit to you that compliance with NA Rule 251(3)(e) is essential to ensure that democracy operates within the National Assembly, as it ensures that MPs have advance knowledge of all relevant aspects of the debate surrounding a bill before the debate takes place in the National Assembly so that they may discuss the matter in their respective caucuses and receive relevant mandates. I draw your attention to the fact that such Rule requires that “any views” be recorded, which has the function of providing the relevant background to MPs before the debate. 


Therefore, I submit that there is no legal basis on which a debate in the National Assembly can proceed and that it is the responsibility of your office to recognise this flaw and return the Report to the Ad Hoc Committee requesting it to comply with the aforesaid Rule. 


I also point out to you, as a separate, distinct and equally fatal flaw, that the Ad Hoc Committee has neither drafted nor adopted any minutes of its proceedings. In respect of other committees, this is less of a problem as minutes can be dealt with after the passing of a bill. However, in this case it is a fatal flaw, as once the Bill is passed by the National Assembly, the Committee will not be able to be reconvened for such purpose. 


During its deliberation, the Ad Hoc Committee made a number of precedent-setting rulings and decisions relating to the President’s power to assent and remand bills to the National Assembly for the Assembly’s reconsideration. Should constitutional litigation ensue with respect to the above-referenced Bill, the Constitutional Court would be deprived of a record of such deliberations. 


I submit to you that the lack of minutes of a committee is in itself a substantive procedural flaw which, I submit, is the duty of your office to acknowledge and redress by reconvening the Ad Hoc Committee before the debate on the above-referenced Bill takes place and requesting that it complies with the requirement of minuting its deliberations. 



Very truly yours, 


Mario GR Oriani-Ambrosini, MP