Intelligence bill does not seek to make policy changes: Cwele

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pretoria - The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (Gilab) does not seek to make policy changes, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said on Friday.

The bill marks the culmination of the first phase of restructuring of the country's civilian intelligence dispensation and the dis-establishment of a number of previous stand-alone intelligence structures, which are now incorporated into the State Security Agency.

"This is part of the phase one process which started in 2009 following the Presidential Proclamation that established the State Security Agency. This bill is merely addressing such issues that are technical in nature and does not introduce policy shifts," Cwele told Parliament's ad hoc committee that is processing the bill.

There is an on-going process of reviewing the Intelligence White Paper, which will present an opportunity to review any policy changes that may be needed.

"We will introduce this process to Parliament this year so that Parliament can ensure that the people of South Africa participate in the creation of a new intelligence dispensation that we are seeking to create," added the minister.

Cwele dismissed talk by an opposition party that the bill "is taking the country back to apartheid" through the centralisation of the intelligence services and centralisation of power in particular.

"We must avoid creating wrong perceptions about this country going back to apartheid. Apartheid was a very painful experience and a lot of people died. We can never enact laws which take us back to such a period," he said.

All of the structures that existed pre-1994 were amalgamated into the National Intelligence Agency.

The bill will also allow for the development of regulations that will prevent abuses with regards to interceptions of South African communication outside of the law.

"In the past, we had two cases of such transgressions in the area of foreign signals intelligence platforms. We have to ensure that such incidents do not occur and that officials work within the provisions of the law."

The ad hoc committee will continue with proceedings on Tuesday. The bill was passed by Cabinet in October 2011.