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A number of provisions in South Africa’s new Mining Charter have sparked debate. Picture: Tebogo Letsie
A number of provisions in South Africa’s new Mining Charter have sparked debate. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

Thuli Madonsela

For true democracy and the rule of law to thrive, openness – instead of transparency – is what SA needs.

During our brief but insightful chat at the end of the World Justice Forum V in The Hague recently, William Neukom, founder of the World Justice Project, shared a charming anecdote on the genesis of California in the US’s open governance or “sunshine” laws. My dialogue with Bill, as he is affectionately known, was a follow-up to a challenge he had thrown to me and my fellow panellist earlier. During our keynote panel on preventing influence on the judiciary and other state institutions, he had posed a challenge about distinguishing between openness and transparency. He asserted that, for true democracy and the rule of law to thrive, openness, not transparency, is key as the latter can be an illusion, while special interest groups hijack government and repurpose government processes, thus perverting democracy.

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