IN two committee meetings lasting no more than five hours in total, the ANC used its majority to push through minor changes to the "secrecy bill" – which included moving around badly placed commas.
President Jacob Zuma referred the controversial bill back to parliament last month, having found it incoherent and unconstitutional.
He specifically named two incoherent and irrational sections, 42 and 45, which deal with the punishment relating to classification and possession of confidential information.
ANC MPs – there are seven of them in the 12-member special committee set up to review the bill following its referral back to parliament – adopted the changes yesterday, ignoring opposition protestation.
The bill will then be tabled in parliament before the end of the month, where the ANC majority is expected to ram it through for Zuma to sign into law.
Chief state law adviser Enver Daniels suggested adding a comma to section 42. A loose sentence in section 45 was completed. This was the second meeting, after a 2½-hour meeting on Wednesday.
While the DA and the Inkatha Freedom Party yesterday agreed that the typographical corrections were necessary, they and other opposition parties abstained from the vote.
IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini described the exercise as "moronic" as legislators had failed to fix the real constitutional problems with the bill.
"It's a monument to the incompetence of this parliament. This is the only bill that has actually been followed by civil society.
"The president gave us an opportunity to come together and find one another and they went about correcting grammar. It's absurd. Morons, this was an exercise taken out of one of the ever reliable ANC encyclopaedias of moronica," said Ambrosini.
Opposition parties had maintained, among other things, that the bill lacked a public interest clause and did not give enough protection to whistleblowers who exposed crime by divulging classified or secret information.
DA MP Dene Smuts said the DA would not vote for the amendments because Zuma had never been clear about what his reservations were regarding the constitutionality of the bill and whether the committee should restrict itself to looking at only sections 42 and 45.