Information Apartheid

South Africa has been a global example of freedom and equality since it ended apartheid two decades ago. But, with a new proposed law that will curtail the right to government information, that freedom is in jeopardy.

CAPE TOWN – Accurate information is the oxygen that keeps democracy breathing. It is the key to ensuring a government’s probity, and to monitoring its relations with the large corporations that drive modern economies. Without accurate information, a country’s citizens are at the mercy of whatever potentially corrupt group happens to be controlling public agencies and making and enforcing the law.

Millions of South Africans suffered the consequences of a lack of information – and considerable disinformation – during the secretive apartheid era. But the country learned from that experience. South Africa’s post-apartheid constitution guarantees the right to public-sector information and, in many cases, private business information as well. South Africa adopted a freedom of information law in 2000, five years before the United Kingdom did.

Now, however, the right to information in South Africa is in jeopardy. In late November, the parliament’s lower house, led by the majority African National Congress (ANC), overwhelmingly approved a new law – the “Protection of State Information Bill” – whose adoption would shield the country’s most-powerful political and business elites from public scrutiny. South Africa’s Nobel Prize-winning novelist and anti-apartheid activist Nadine Gordimer has likened the bill to apartheid legislation.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/ldm86FE;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.