Correct. The current driver treats the shader compiler as a black box and re-uses that in the free driver. So what we have now is free driver infrastructure with a binary shader compiler. One thing at a time.
The infrastructure part is much less contentious in terms of patent issues, and lets other people get involved so it makes sense to start with this part.
The clean design (and lack of years of accumulated cruft) in Mali means that it is easy to separate these two parts. They are more-or-less independent reverse-engineering tasks, as I understand it.