The South African constitution envisages South Africa to be an opendemocracy where transparency, accountability, fairness and administrative justice are upheld as key principles guiding the conduct of public affairs and the affairs of state.
To meet the constitutional aspiration for an open democracy post-1994 governments have developed a battery of laws and policies intended to entrench transparency in the public service and parliament, in turn, has passed a number of laws intended to give effect to principles of transparency and accountability.
Among these laws are, are the Promotion of Access to Information Act No. 2 of 2000 (PAIA), the Protected Disclosures Act No. 36 of 2000, and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act No.3 of 2000. Government has also signed on to a number of pro-transparency initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
Despite these pro-transparency efforts these laws and policies arepoorly implemented. The South African Human Rights Commission’s Annual Report for 2012-2013 notes that over 80% of local government authorities in South Africa fail to comply with the provisions of PAIA.
The PAIA Civil Society Network recently released a report that states that 65% of requests for information from government departments and agencies are simply ignored, with only 16% of requests leading to disclosure of information requested. These are some of the examples that show the challenges encountered in transforming South Africa from a closed, secretive police state to an open democracy.