The Protection of Information Bill will, in all likelihood, not be passed in its present form and will "take new shape" following proposals made to the Adhoc Committee overseeing the drafting of the Bill.
This is according to Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele, who was addressing the media on Friday shortly after a meeting with the committee.
These proposals, he said, were aimed at making the Bill better in terms of content, organisation and application.
Cwele said one of the proposals was to delete the concept of national interest completely from the Bill. "This is a huge development which deals effectively with the fears expressed that 'anything and everything' could be classified on the basis of this concept."
A further proposal was that the concept of commercial information be deleted and instead use the definition provided for in the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). "Clearly, with all the fundamental amendments we have proposed and are still proposing, this Bill will take a new shape and will not be passed in its present form," the minister said.
The need to work further on the Bill in order to produce a piece of legislation to deal with the challenges of information peddling, espionage and illegal alteration and loss of state information was highlighted at the meeting with the committee, Cwele added.
During the meeting, the minister also emphasised that his department's approach was based on international best practice, which was also in line with the country's Constitution.
The minister noted that legislation would also ensure that South Africans are not short changed of their right of access to information.
He stressed that government was not using this Bill to classify information on corruption, inefficiencies and maladministration but wanted to protect information which is not meant to be in the public domain.
"We also reiterate our view that using the public interest as a defence for publishing classified information is not consistent with our approach. As we indicated, public interest should be used for requesting access to such information, as provided for in this bill and in terms of PAIA," Cwele added.
Government would do all its power to ensure that the Bill was aligned with the Constitution, the minister said. - BuaNews