unsolicited text messages from Zanu PF asking him to vote
for the party.
In a case in which the applicant wanted the ZEC to be ordered to
release the voters’ roll, the court ruled in favour of the Election
Resource Centre, stating that the elections management
body must make the voters’ roll available to anyone who pays
the stipulated fee in a reasonable amount of time and in the
preferred format. All these cases have the potential to shape
the access to information environment in the country.
Under the Constitution, the following rights are explicitly
61 Freedom of expression and freedom of the media
(1) Every person has the right to freedom of expression,
which includes—
(a) freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas
and other information;
(b) freedom of artistic expression and scientific research
and creativity; and
(c) academic freedom.
(2) Every person is entitled to freedom of the media,
which freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of
journalists’ sources of information.
(3) Broadcasting and other electronic media of
communication have freedom of establishment, subject
only to State licensing procedures that—
(a) are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other
forms of signal distribution; and
(b) are independent of control by government or by
political or commercial interests.
(4) All State-owned media of communication must—
(a) be free to determine independently the editorial
content of their broadcasts or other communications;
(b) be impartial; and
(c) afford fair opportunity for the presentation of
divergent views and dissenting opinions.
(5) Freedom of expression and freedom of the media do
not include—
(a) incitement to violence;
(b) advocacy of hatred or hate speech;
(c) malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity;
(d) malicious or unwarranted breach of a person’s right
to privacy.
62 Access to information
(1) Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident,
including the Zimbabwean media, has the right of
access to any information held by the State or by any
institution or agency of government at every level, in
so far as the information is required in the interests of
public accountability.
(2) Every person, including the Zimbabwean media,
has the right of access to any information held by any
person, including the State, in so far as the information
is required for the exercise or protection of a right.
(3) Every person has a right to the correction of
information, or the deletion of untrue, erroneous or
misleading information, which is held by the State or

any institution or agency of the government at any
level, and which relates to that person.
(4) Legislation must be enacted to give effect to this
right, but may restrict access to information in the
interests of defence, public security or professional
confidentiality, to the extent that the restriction is fair,
reasonable, necessary and justifiable in a democratic
society based on openness, justice, human dignity,
equality and freedom.
Subsidiary legislation that is clearly inconsistent with these
provisions still exists. Notable among such laws is the Official
Secrets Act 1970, which makes it difficult for citizens and media
to access some information held by government and public
institutions. Another law is the Public Order and Security
Act 2002 (POSA), which restricts freedom of association
and freedom of assembly. The law was recently invoked by
government and used to prevent public gatherings.
In the face of changing digital trends, questions remain about
the relevance of the AIPPA legislation. In its pre-amble, the Act
states that it will provide members of the public with the right
to access to records and information held by public bodies. It
further pledges to make public bodies accountable by allowing
the public the right to request correction of misrepresented
personal information.
However, in effect the opposite is true, as the law takes
away more than it gives. Under the AIPPA, applicants
seeking records or information held by a public body should
request the information in writing and, where possible, pay a
reasonable fee. The head of the public body is given up to 30
days to respond. He/she is allowed to refuse the granting of
the requested information if deemed to not be in the public’s
interest. What is in the public’s interest has been left for the
official to arbitrarily decide. If the information involves a
third party, the head of the public institution is allowed 30
more days to consult the third party before responding to the
request. However, the head of a public body may also refuse
all or part of a request for access to information, in which case
he/she has to give the applicant reasons for such refusal.
In the event the applicant feels aggrieved by the decision
not to grant information, he/she may ask the Zimbabwe
Media Commission to review the public body’s decision. In
essence, this constitutes a mere review process that does
not guarantee the applicant access to information. In fact,
it actually makes the process of accessing information more
cumbersome and complex. The process is unnecessarily
bureaucratised, as it may take more than 60 days before a final
decision is made on whether an applicant can have access to
a record or requested information. This is a typical scenario
in which the AIPPA begins to act as an impediment to access
to information rather than foster the spirit of openness and
transparency within public bodies. The process contradicts
the law’s intended principle of encouraging openness and
accountability in public institutions.


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