Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation on 28/03/2024

Developments surrounding the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill [B40B-2023] reached a significant milestone on 26 March 2024, as the National Assembly adopted the Bill after extensive deliberations by the Ad Hoc Committee. Ismail Joosub, the Legal Officer of Constitutional Programmes at the FW de Klerk Foundation, offers insights into the Foundation’s stance on the Bill.

While we commend the diligent efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee on the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill, the Foundation remains cautious about certain provisions within the Bill,” stated Joosub. 

The Bill, under consideration since 2019, underwent thorough scrutiny by the Ad Hoc Committee during a series of meetings held on 7, 8, 11, and 19 March 2024. The Bill aims to restructure South Africa’s intelligence apparatus in response to past irregularities, including concerns over privacy rights and state surveillance.

The Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee asserted that the Bill balances intelligence service efficiency with civil liberties. The Bill received rare bipartisan support, hailed by major parties for its potential to curb intelligence service abuse. Dianne Kohler-Barnard (DA) lauded the Bill as “elegant,” highlighting its necessity for safeguarding democracy, while Mbuyiseni Ndlozi (EFF) advocated for increased autonomy for the Inspector General of Intelligence.

The Foundation’s written submission expressed concerns regarding the potential abuse of power through increased surveillance capabilities granted to intelligence agencies. It emphasised the need for robust safeguards to protect citizens’ privacy rights, as enshrined in the Constitution, particularly sections 14 (right to privacy) and 36 (limitation of rights).

The Bill aims to strike a delicate balance between security imperatives and constitutional principles,” noted Joosub. “However, ongoing oversight and accountability mechanisms will be crucial to prevent abuses of power and safeguard democratic freedoms.”

The clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill saw amendments to address concerns raised by stakeholders, including the Foundation. While improvements were made, ongoing monitoring and oversight will be crucial to ensure the effective implementation of these reforms.

The FW de Klerk Foundation emphasises the importance of maintaining ongoing vigilance and accountability to protect citizens’ rights while improving national security measures. As we address these intricate matters, it is crucial not to overlook the significance of transparency, accountability, and the preservation of democratic values, even as we bolster security mechanisms.