Spy Bill receives backing from parties after adoption by Parliament

Parliament has passed the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Parliament has passed the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill. Picture: Armand Hough/Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 27, 2024


Political parties have supported the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill saying it will strengthen the State Security Agency (SSA) and give some powers to the Inspector-General of Intelligence.

Chairperson of the ad hoc committee Jerome Maake said the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, known as the Spy Bill will address shortcomings in the intelligence services.

The Bill will also address issues identified by the High Level Panel, chaired by Sydney Mufamadi, the Zondo Commission’s report and the judgment of the Constitutional Court to strengthen the work of the SSA.

Maake said they wanted to create an intelligence service that was accountable, but at the same doing its work to ensure national security.

Parliament approved the bill and House chairperson Madala Ntombela said it will now be referred to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence.

Maake said the SSA was a key component or structure of the state that is at the forefront of gathering intelligence.

He said the bill will now do away with the SSA and create the South African Intelligence Service and the SA Intelligence Agency.

He said the establishment of SSA in 2009 was irregular and this was addressed in the Bill.

“The establishment of SSA through a presidential proclamation in 2009 was irregular, deviating from Constitutional requirements. Despite subsequent legislative amendments challenges persisted leading to the formation of the High Level Review Panel in 2018 to address issues within SAA,” said Maake.

“The General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill seeks to implement the recommendations of the High Level Review Panel by undoing the SSA and creating distinct domestic and foreign intelligence services. It aims to enhance accountability, compliance with Constitutional Court judgments and regulation of intelligence services.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) member of Parliament Dianne Kohler Barnard said they support the bill.

However, she said the bill was rammed through the parliamentary process.

She said the joint standing committee on intelligence had for the last eight years asked Cabinet to bring this bill to Parliament to no avail.

Finally, when Cabinet tabled the bill it caused a huge public outcry because it proposed vetting churches and NGOs before they could be allowed to operate.

After this outcry the controversial clauses were removed from the Spy Bill.

Kohler Barnard also said the bill sought to reverse “egregious activities” of the past “when domestic and foreign intelligence had been irregularly lumped together”.

This led to the formation of the SSA.

She said the ad hoc committee has also managed to ensure that the Inspector-General of Intelligence would be able to appoint his own staff and not the SSA.

Kohler Barnard said the cabinet was wrong to insert clauses that sought to vet churches and these have now been removed.

“The committee members had read in the newspapers how church heads and heads of NGOs would now have to undergo some sort of security vetting and obtain a so-called security clearance certificate,” Kohler Barnard said.

“There was no indication what this would entail or what would happen to NGO heads or heads of the church if they fail to obtain such a certificate. Would we see the closing of our local mosque, the Anglican church or Shembe church perhaps?”

She said they have taken out every single threatening constitutional phrase in the bill.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also said they support the bill as it has addressed some of the key questions.

EFF MP Mbuyisen Ndlozi also said the Spy Bill was rushed through Parliament.

“The Mufamadi report, which served as the initial basis for this bill has been part of public record since 2018,” said Ndlozi.

“You await until the final hour in terms of this term of office for the bill of this magnitude, rushed through processes at the time of serious electoral contestation is opportunistic to say the least.”

However, they acknowledge the fact that the bill was securing the autonomy of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and this will strengthen his oversight responsibilities over the spooks.

The EFF also wants the findings of the Inspector-General to be binding, This is one point the inspector-general raised during hearings on the bill.

Ndlozi said they also welcome the fact that the SSA will now be split into a domestic and foreign branch of intelligence.

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