In 2013, the then Minister in the Office of the President,
Mokgweetsi Masisi, stopped the adoption of the Freedom
of Information Act - sponsored by an opposition Member of
Parliament, Dumelang Saleshando- by promising to bring an
improved bill from the Executive back to Parliament.
Todate, four years later, with the Minister having now become
the Vice President, there has not been any progress made on
the new bill. Nor has there been any political will to escalate the
discussion on access to information (ATI). This is despite the
public will, demonstrated in both the Constitution (Section 12
under ‘Freedom of Expression’) and the National Vision 2016
document which explicitly recognised access to information as
a right. Some state organs, notably the Ombudsman and the
Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC) have
previously added their voices to the call for this law. However,
at the same time, there have been instances of threats and
persecution of conveyors of information, notably journalists,
which hinders the practice of open governance.
Most cases in which journalists were detained were attempts
to block the release of certain information. In the case of the
Botswana Gazette raid by the DCEC for instance, security
agents confiscated computer storage units—a clear indication
of the desire to close down information streams. The Gazette’s
publisher, editor, reporter and their lawyer were briefly detained
for purportedly trying to publish information that was before the
DCEC. The lawyer, Joao Salbany, who had stayed in Botswana
for over 20 years, was subsequently denied the renewal of his
work permit.
Another case involved a whistleblower and a freelance journalist,
where the former was accused of stealing state property (a
file). They were detained for the weekend and subsequently
discharged, however, the whistleblower who was then a
government employee, had his employment terminated.
The Botswana Gazette in a landmark case, challenges the Water
Utilities Corporation (WUC) before the High Court to release
information regarding privately-owned dams in the vicinity
of the National Dam. This is a pioneering case in Botswana
where, save for the constitutional recognition of freedom of
information, there is no specific law detailing or facilitating
access to information. This case also illuminates the difficulty
of accessing information in Botswana, since not everyone can
afford the litigation expenses.
The need for access to information legislation has never been
more urgent. An ATI law is expected to not only enforce the
release of information but also to make access effortless and
convenient with, where necessary, reasonable exemptions.
With explicit timelines and turnaroundtimes, the public will be
able to seek legal assistance if and when they are denied due
information. This law will also make life easier for public bodies
since they will have the opportunity to support their position
for classified information before proper commissioners of

The ATI law therefore is not necessarily a panacea for journalists’
woes alone (as it is often assumed), but will also provide
governance on the release of contested information. Unlike now,
when journalists just have to use their intuition, notwithstanding
the existing inhibiting laws, to make editorial decisions. Using
the African Union Model Law on ATI, from which the bill that the
government rejected in 2013 was modelled, the exemptions in
the law limit journalists’ natural penchant for an absolute open
government and therefore provide for balance in the public
interest. Government’s fear of fully implementing an open ATI
system is therefore irrational, unwarranted and paranoiac.

Rationale and ReseaRch
This research is intended to gauge the accessibility of information
in government and public offices.
Eight public institutions were targeted and given written requests
for information pertaining to their organisations. Four of the
information requests were physically handed over to the Citizen
Entrepreneurial and Development Agency (CEDA), the Office of
the Ombudsman (OMB), the Ministry of Youth Empowerment,
Sports and Culture Development (MYSC), and the Ministry of
Health and Wellness (MOH).
The remaining four were emailed to the Companies and
Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA), the Ministry of
Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs (MNIG), the
Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) and
the University of Botswana (UB).
The first four were handed in on 27 July 2017 and by 15 August
2017, none of them had responded, save for seeking some
clarification and providing some updates. The next batch was
sent on different dates between 28 July 2017 and 1 August 2017.
The different dates were due to email technical errors and where
necessary, requests had to be resent. However, except for one
of the organisations contacted, 21 days elapsed without any
The websites were analysed based on a few guidelines: aesthetic,
informative, effective/functional, and efficient. Social media was
considered an added value.
The following public institutions were surveyed::
1. Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA)
2. Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA)
3. Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA)
4. Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW)
5. Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs
6. University of Botswana (UB)
7. Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture
Development (MYESC)
8. Office of the Ombudsman (OMB)


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