20 February 2013

South Africa: Right2know Responds to GCIS Statement

President Jacob Zuma has hit back at opposition parties, who criticized him for his lacklustre speech, on the last day of debate of the State of the ... ( Resource: Jacob Zuma's Day at the State of Nation Debate )

When GCIS announced that it would be responding to the Right2Know Campaign's Secret State of the Nation report, the R2K welcomed the possibility of a meaningful engagement with its empirically grounded contents, which confirm the worrying trend towards secrecy in South Africa today.

It was thus with great disappointment that R2K read GCIS's statement issued on 19 February 2013, entitled 'Government refutes Right2Know's unfounded claims'. The statement is strong on rhetoric but devoid of any engagement with the substance of the report.

GCIS has ignored basic empirical evidence that confirms the overall failure of government officials to comply with the Promotion of Access to Information Act. Figures from the South African History Archive reveal that 64% of information requests in 2012 were refused or ignored. Factual evidence derived from government's own figures further reveal the growing number of institutions classified as National Key Points (a 54% increase in the last five years). Additional research presented in the Report confirms the high levels of information currently classified as secret, and the high number of government departments that have refused to disclose how many secret documents they have classified.

Today's GCIS statement appears more as a conscious attempt to slander and obfuscate than to illuminate and engage. R2K states that our government should be leading the promotion and defence of our democracy. Its communications services should be setting the standard for transparent and honest engagement with citizens. R2K would welcome meaningful engagement and a substantive public debate on the findings of its report.

GCIS should be taking its cue from Guinea-Bissau's revolutionary leader, Amilcar Cabral, who famously wrote: "Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories."

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