Zuma pledges more transparency

2011-09-22 07:36

New York – President Jacob Zuma has committed himself to an initiative started by US President Barack Obama in which governments pledge to be more open and transparent.

40 heads of state gathered at the plush Waldorf Astoria hotel for the launch of the Open Government Partnership, with Zuma as part of the steering committee.

“We commit to promoting increased access to information and disclosure about governmental activities at every level of government,” the declaration reads.Four African countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia and Ghana joined South Africa in signing the declaration yesterday.

This comes only a few days after the Promotion of Access to Information Bill, aimed at curbing the availability of information especially to the media, was pulled in Parliament for more consultation.

Observers commented that it would have been difficult for Zuma to sign the declaration with a straight face knowing such a law, which opposes that which the Open Government Partnership seeks to promote, is being enacted in his own country.

In his remarks at the event Zuma pointed to the Public Protector and Human Rights commission as ways of showing how South Africa is fighting corruption.

Zuma also said he was proud of the freedom of expression and of the media being enshrined in the South African constitution.Obama told his counterparts: “We as heads of government tend to make mistakes, and when we make mistakes we want to hide it. But we must be careful of that.”

In the declaration signatories commit themselves to ensure better access to information about government activities on all levels.

“We pledge to lead by example,” it says.

It is understood that some countries like Sweden wants to use the gathering of heads of state at the United Nations to convince South Africa to either adapt the protection of access to information bill drastically or start it from scratch.

In diplomatic circles there was a sigh of relief when the ANC decided to withdraw the bill last week for further consultation.

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