THE signing into law of the Freedom of Information Act as part of the processes of repealing the draconian and widely discredited Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is a significant milestone in Zimbabwe’s law reforms agenda that should set the pace for the repeal of other laws that infringe on the country’s constitutional rights.
Commendably, some of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act will go a long way in giving effect to sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution which provide for freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information.
Of concern though among other contentious issues is the fact that the new law ignores overwhelming submissions by citizens during public hearings into the Freedom of Information Bill before its passage in Parliament, pertaining to the roles of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).
Overwhelming submissions were made on the need for appeals relating to denial of information requests to be lodged with the ZHRC, or a competent court of law, and not with the ZMC as its constitutional mandate is on media regulation.
In Bulawayo, a citizen submitted that it would not be appropriate to launch an appeal with the Zimbabwe Media Commission should one be denied access to their health records. In her view, the ZMC would not be the competent body to arbitrate in a matter in which the commission does not have the expertise and knowledge to handle an issue pertaining to health.