Report Scores South Africa For `Failing’ on Access

10 September 2014

“Access to information mechanisms are failing” in South Africa, according to a new report by the Right2Know Campaign.

Using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) “often proves to be a frustration that is symptomatic of resistance to openness from information holders,” according to “Secret State of the Nation” for 2014.

Monitoring indicates “that only 16% of requests resulted in full release of information,” according to the report, the lowest success rate since monitoring began in 2009.

Fifty-four percent of initial requests were met with silence, while 62% of requests that were under internal appeal did not get a response in the 30 days as required by the law.

The report’s wider findings include “several signs of abuse of secrecy and continued securitisation of some parts of the state.” These are:

  • Increasing limitations on protest, with a sharp increase in attacks on protesters: there is a general upward trend in the number of protesters killed by police, and complaints of assault and attempted murder by police.
  • Continued increase of the use of state-security policies such as the National Key Points and Strategic Installations with no public oversight.
  • Lack of public oversight of surveillance capacity which remains vulnerable to abuse.
  • Signs that secrecy and security-state capacity are being used to shield political actors from embarrassment and scrutiny, in particular the office of the Presidency and President Zuma himself.

The report also criticizes the government for “too little proactive release of information.” It says that the transparency mechanisms of the private sector “continue to be overlooked” and provides some case studies of transparency struggles involving the extractive industries.

“It is worth noting that the report has been hampered by lack of access to information; many of the metrics of secrecy, which would help inform a public debate on these issues, remain secret,” the report says.

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