TAI Partner Spotlight with Mukelani Dimba
Open Democracy Advice Center and their 3 Demands Success
1. What is Open Democracy Advice Center?
The Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) is a not-for-profit law centre that specializes in Freedom of Information and whistleblower protection laws in South Africa. ODAC was a product of civil society’s campaign for right-to-information laws in South Africa, which culminated in passing the Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Protected Disclosures Act in 2000.
ODAC’s mission is to promote open and transparent democracy; foster a culture of corporate and government accountability; and assist people in South Africa to realize their human rights. ODAC seeks to achieve its mission through realizing the right to know so that it makes a material, tangible difference in the lives of the poor, and thereby contributes to social and economic justice. Hence ODAC provides practical and niche services to individuals and organizations with a social justice agenda to help citizens access their rights in respect of three key pieces of legislation:
• The Protected Disclosures Act 2000 (PDA) Assented to and signed on 1 August 2000
• The Promotion of Access to Information Act 2000 (PAIA) Signed by the President on 2 February 2000
• The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 2000 (PAJA) Signed by the President on 3 February 2000
ODAC works towards enhancing the public and civil society’s access to public and private information through the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) including test case requests for public and privately held information and test case litigation. Our organization promotes the fight against corruption by supporting actual and potential bona fide whistle blowers using the Protected Disclosures Act (PDA) by providing legal advice, support and case referral. We support effective implementation of the new legislation by assisting public and private institutions to develop policies, procedures and systems. ODAC provides public information and training on using the legislation through public awareness campaigns, and workshops. We also monitor the implementation and use of legislation in order to refine and improve it by conducting applied and comparative research.
3. What were the steps involved in creating the 3 Demands to your government for Rio+20?
The 3 Demands exercise was conducted as part of TAI-SA’s campaign which is being lead by the PAIA Civil Society Network, a network of about 12 organizations. Instead of developing a set of new demands, TAI-SA felt that the 3 Demands exercise should be designed such that it supports current campaigns for access to information and transparency in South Africa. It was for this reason that two of the demands related to amendment of the South African FOI to provide for the establishment of the office of the information commissioner and the other related to the amendment of the whistleblower protection legislation to provide for stronger protective measures for whistleblowers. A call was made for submission of proposals for more demands and the environmental information transparency portal emerged as a popular demand.
4. What was the South African government’s response to the 3 Demands and why was it important?
Following the submission of the three demands, government has invited TAI-SA to take part in consultative meetings on preparations for Rio 2012. The demand for establishment of the environmental information transparency portal was also included in the government’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) commitments.
5. What are the next steps for your group concerning Rio+20?
Our group intends to track the development of South Africa’s stance on Rio+20 through engaging with the government in its preparation and we will engage with both government and the public on the OGP commitment for a transparency portal.