By Locadia Mavhudzi
Gweru residents said the newly unveiled Freedom of Information Act is a powerful tool to monitor transparency and accountability in the provision of public services.
Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association Director, Cornelia Selipiwe hailed the new Act and called on media practitioners to unearth mal- functions especially in the running of local authorities.
“Through this Act, journalists are fully empowered to access information that is in the interest of the public. Local authorities have been short changing residents for a long time and critical information such as audit reports is kept under the carpet or take longer than necessary to be availed to the public. Gweru city for example, has not yet availed the 2019 external audit report.”
Selipiwe said information is power and has the capacity to influence positive choices especially in light of the Covid19 pandemic.
“The Act has come at an opportune time when the public should be nourished with adequate information so as to make the rightful decisions. Currently there is a lot of misinformation about the pandemic and we expect relevant health public offices to support us with information.”
The Freedom of Information Act repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), legislation that had been viewed as draconian and a hindrance to access to information.
The new legislation provides citizens and media practitioners with the right to access information and also creates legal frameworks and mechanisms for accessing information from public and private bodies.
Section 62(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for access to information held by State institutions when the information is required in the interests of public accountability whereas Section 62(2) provides for access to information held by any person, including the State, where that information is necessary for the exercise or protection of a right.
Women and girls’ rights organization, Tag a Life International (TaLI), recently launched the My Freedom of Information campaign to raise awareness on the Freedom of Information Act for vulnerable groups and journalists.