‘Information Act a game changer’

Source: ‘Information Act a game changer’ – NewsDay Zimbabwe

THE newly-enacted Freedom of Information Act will deal a blow to the bad habits of public institutions and government bodies that have a penchant of concealing information to media practitioners and the public, a Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) official has said.

ZMC commissioner Aleck Ncube on Saturday told delegates at a Media Institute of Southern Africa meeting in Bulawayo that the law will compel public institutions to release information within 48 hours of being requested to do so.

The Freedom of Information Act replaced the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), to provide citizens and media practitioners with the right to access information.

It also created legal frameworks and mechanisms for accessing information from public and private bodies.

“The law will be a culture shock to public institutions in that they will be need for them to be transparent in providing information and organise it in a manner that can be accessed by everyone,” Ncube said.

“The Freedom of Information Act, enacted in July 2020, gives effect to the constitutional right of access to any State, public commercial entity or statutory office which is required for the exercise of, or protection of a right,” he said.

The Zimbabwean government had become notorious for hiding information on deals entered into by the Executive. Ministers have also been avoiding to answer questions in Parliament regarding government dealings.

Ncube, however, said there were limitations in the law in terms of access to information on Cabinet minutes and documents.

Misa assistant programmes officer Nompilo Simanje said the public should begin to enjoy the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act by demanding the information they require from public bodies.

“The Constitution gives us the right, but the Freedom of Information Act comes into play giving us an enabling Act in terms of exercising that right,’’ Simanje said.

In its recent position paper on the Freedom of Information Act, Misa expressed concern that section 7 of the Act which provides for requests of access to information does not apply to private entities.

The media body also highlighted that the Act, which gives effect to the constitutional right of access to information held by any State or public office will be a game-changer and a cultural shock to public commercial entities.