The Right2Know (R2K) Campaign has today released its Secret State of the Nation Report 2014, which addresses certain trends, patterns and problems around secrecy in South Africa. The country is grappling with ever-greater threats to access to information, such as the Protection of State Information Bill (the infamous Secrecy Bill), which is not yet signed into law.
Other worrying trends include :
* the use of secrecy to shield political actors, in particular President Jacob Zuma, from embarrassment and accountability;
* an increase in limitations on protest, with an extraordinary spike in police violence and growing signs of criminalisation of protest;
* an apparent increase in the use of state-security policies such as the National Key Points Act;
* a lack of democratic oversight of surveillance tools which are vulnerable to abuse.
These threats, says R2K, undermine “democratic principles by stifling debate, undermining accountability and protecting the powerful from scrutiny”. But certain types of information must be available to citizens, as they lie at the heart of many struggles for environmental, economic or social justice.
Furthermore, says R2K, the very conditions that prevail made it difficult for the organisation to even research the short, 16-page report.
"This report’s findings highlight the need for greater transparency so that the public can monitor the use of state secrecy, as well as the need for a greater commitment to transparency both from the state and the private sector," says R2K.
The report covers a number of relevant topics that affect all South Africans, offering statistics, examples and need-to-know information on:
- the Promotion of Access to Information Act;
- the repression of protests and its often-violent consequences;
- the Regulation of Interception of Communications and provision of communication-related information Act, or Rica;
- the apparent abuse of the National Key Points regulations;
- the use of secrecy and state security as a political survival strategy and an instrument to evade accountability;
- the refusal to make political party funding transparent;
- the Secrecy Bill, which is now awaiting Zuma’s signature;
- transparency and secrecy in the private sector.
Download the report from our website, or visit R2K for more information. In subsequent articles, to be published in due course, we will explore certain relevant sections, which impact on our own work, in greater detail.