24 October 1997


Government to publish access to information bill

Incident details

legal action

(FXI/IFEX) - The Open Democracy Bill (ODB), which is meant to
provide a legislative framework for the constitutional right of
access to information, will be published in the "Government
Gazette" on 24 October 1997. Announcing this in Cape Town, the
office of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki said the public would be
given until 30 November to comment and make submissions on the

**Updates IFEX alert dated 25 August 1997**

Background Information

The OBD is designed to give citizens access to government
information, as well as access to private information held by
private information banks. The bill is also meant to protect
citizens against the abuse of private information, either by
government or the private sector, and to protect government
employees who blow the whistle on maladministration and
corruption. The last time a version of the ODB was made available
for public scrutiny was at the beginning of 1996. This version
was drawn up by a specially-appointed task group in consultation
with over sixty civil society groupings who made up the Open
Democracy Advisory Forum (ODAF). It went to cabinet for approval
in May 1996, and remained there for just over a year. In June
1997, Cabinet approved a version of the ODB which was
substantially different to the one of May 1996, and which will in
all likelihood be the one that has been published in the
"Gazette". Among the substantial changes was the complete
scrapping of the section allowing citizens access to meetings of
government bodies, a change in the judicial route which citizens
can follow in the event of the non-disclosure of information, and
the scrapping of a specially-appointed Open Democracy Commission
that will oversee the implementation of the bill. In August 1997,
FXI, along with several other non-governmental organisations,
lodged a protest with Mbeki because of the level of
non-disclosure surrounding the ODB. FXI called on Mbeki to ensure
that a draft of ODB be made available to the public as soon as
possible and that sufficient time be afforded to civil society to
study and respond to the proposed legislation before being tabled
in Parliament (see IFEX alert).


Freedom of Expression Institute
PO Box 30668 Braamfontein 2017
21st floor, Sable Centre, 41 De Korte Street
Braamfontein, Johannesburg 2001
South Africa
jduncan (@) fxi.org.za
Fax:+27 11 339 4109
South Africa

IFEX members working in this country 1

More from South Africa
  • Freedom on the Net 2017: South Africa

    South Africa voted against the UN Resolution for “the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet”

  • Freedom of the Press 2017: South Africa

    In September, the Supreme Court of Appeal handed down a significant judgment upholding the principle of an open Parliament and journalists’ right to report from inside the chamber.

  • Freedom of the Press 2016: South Africa

    The ruling African National Congress (ANC) announced plans to introduce legislation that would effectively repeal the common law crime of defamation in South Africa.