Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) has welcomed the government’s repeal of Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). An act that has been blamed for stifling press freedom in Zimbabwe.
Under AIPPA, the provisions for access to information are general and require citizens to make a formal request for disclosure of any manner of records held by the Government or Government departments according to ZELA
“As an organization that seeks to promote good environmental and natural resources governance and access to information, ZELA believes that information regarding and incidental to energy, infrastructure and natural resources contracts must be publicly disclosed and published to enable interested communities and citizens to access information on energy, infrastructure and natural resources contracts and how such projects are contributing to community development and the nation as a whole,” ZELA says in a press statement.
“More importantly, information on possible or actual negative impacts on the environment and human rights of such projects must be voluntarily disclosed by Government and corporates.”
ZELA also says that the AIPPA requirement to formally request access to certain contract information held by public officials or entities means that disclosure is reactive.
“This is an impediment to contract transparency,” the Law Environment statement reads. “Non-disclosure of information on contracts and mega-deals fuels corruption and mismanagement of public resources.”
“Further, the manner in which information disclosed by the government can be accessed under AIPPA is a barrier to freedom of information relating to mining contracts.”
“AIPPA provides that the citizen seeking the disclosure of the information can access physical records and take notes and is not allowed to make copies.”
ZELA, in the press statement, urges the Government to consider the principles of contract and revenue disclosure to promote transparency and accountability as envisaged in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI) when crafting the proposed Access to Information Bill.
“This is key in light of the positive promise made by the Ministry of Finance in the 2019 National Budget statement where he mentioned that Zimbabwe will seek to join the EITI (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative),” the press statement reads.
The act was introduced in 2002 during the era of Professor Jonathan Moyo as the Information Minister and has resulted in the arrest of journalists in Zimbabwe.