Hwange residents have applauded the Freedom of Information Act, saying it marks the beginning of the right to freedom of expression for all citizens.
The Freedom of Information Bill recently became law replacing the unpopular Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The new Act is meant to provide citizens and media practitioners’ access to information as provided for by the Constitution under Section 62.
Fidelis Chima, Greater Hwange residents trust coordinator said lack of information from local authorities and private entities contributed to the snail’s pace development in Hwange district.
“The Act will give leverage to the communities affected by mining companies. Communities need to ask about environmental plans for the mines operating in their communities. Also with regards to health issues, we know coal mining may lead to respiratory diseases, such kind of information should be readily available to communities,” said Chima.
He expressed optimism that the new Act will give a push to the economic drivers of Hwange.
“We hope that this Act will usher in a new era where communities here will use it to access critical information that seeks to develop Hwange. During the AIPPA era it was difficult to access information that the communities can use to develop Hwange. During that era there was criminalisation of journalism. We hope this Act will ensure that journalists do their jobs without fear.”
Meanwhile, Tag a Life International Trust (TaLI), a girls and young women’s rights organisation in partnership with Fojo Media Institute, Embassy of Sweden, Ministry of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services with support from the International Media Support (IMS), launched a campaign called “My Freedom of Information – MfoI” as a way of informing the citizens that there is a law which encourages them to have access to information that will benefit their communities.
The founding director of Tag a Life International, Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, said the Freedom of Information Act allows access to information that promotes people’s rights.
Said Mashayamombe: “The new Act allows citizens such as women, girls, youths, vulnerable groups and all citizens to have access to information that can promote their rights.”
The Information can be sought from the council, government departments, private and public organisations or churches .
“It is also important to pursue information in the sense of devolution. Resources have been brought to the councils, closer to the ordinary citizen, therefore, people must have knowledge on how those resources are prioritised and being utilised by the local authorities,” she said.
“If information is shared, there is accountability from councils.”
This new law ensures that every citizen or journalist can approach public bodies to access information. Progressive laws such as these also enable women, girls, youths and all vulnerable groups to participate in democracy, human rights and accountability as they can easily access information that contributes to monitoring of usage of public resources. Nhau/Indaba