This is the 10th Transparency
Assessment Report of the Media
Institute of Southern Africa (MISA),
which examines the openness and
transparency of public institutions
in southern Africa.
This is the 10th Transparency Assessment Report of the
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which examines
the openness and transparency of public institutions in
southern Africa.

great improvements in openness and transparency of public
institutions and MISA Malawi’s 2018 survey achieved a 100%
response rate to information requests; a first in Malawi and
throughout the region.

Between July and September 2018, research was conducted
in seven countries namely, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia,
Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In their
respective countries, national researchers sent information
requests to selected institutions anticipating answers to their
questions within 21 days. They also assessed whether relevant
information (from contact details to budgetary information)
had been proactively made available by public bodies via an
online presence.

In contrast, only one public institution in Eswatini, the
Municipal Council of Mbabane, replied swiftly to the request
for information and provided a comprehensive response. Staff
of most surveyed institutions argued that the responsible
officials were too busy with the primary elections, held on 25
August, and would therefore respond in their aftermath. In
the end, all of these institutions, including the Elections and
Boundaries Commission, failed to respond to the information
requests. The fact that elections are used as an excuse for
unresponsiveness instead of an incentive for heightened
transparency is concerning.

MISA is a founding member of the African Platform on Access
to Information (APAI), which adopted the APAI Declaration in
2011, a regional document that looks at access to information
in its entirety, both as a right that is relevant to numerous
sectors and one that has the potential for further development
in various spheres.
In this spirit, the APAI Declaration concerns itself with,
among other pertinent issues, access to information and
elections, the extractives industry, health, and the rights of
women and children.

In both Zimbabwe and Namibia, although not directly
providing the requested information, some institutions guided
the researchers in a clear and helpful manner as to how to
obtain the information.

Over the years, the cross-sectoral relevance of the right to
information has been acknowledged in several international
and regional instruments. One of them being the Guidelines on
Access to Information and Elections in Africa, which states that:

Although not a single institution in Zimbabwe provided all
the information requested, the national researcher noted
that public officials, who in the past had been hostile to
citizens requesting information, had become friendlier. Yet,
it was noted that public institutions were characterised by
inefficiencies and were therefore often unable to effectively
respond to requests.

Access to information empowers the electorate to be wellinformed about political processes with due regard to their
best interests: to elect political office holders; to participate
in decision-making processes on the implementation of
laws and policies; and to hold public officials accountable
for their acts or omissions in the execution of their duties.
Thus, access to information is a foundational requirement
of the practice of democratic governance.
MISA therefore notes with satisfaction that the Malawi
Electoral Commission has received the highest score of all
institutions surveyed throughout the region. Malawi has seen


Except for Malawi and Namibia, which had a 100% and a 63%
response rate respectively, all other countries saw less than
half of their institutions responding to information requests in
a meaningful way.

In Mozambique, only three institutions responded to the
requests for information. However, it became clear during the
research that the institutions’ silence was often not due to
unwillingness, but rather to a lack of organisational structures
and clear delegation of responsibilities.
Steady improvements of institutions’ online presence could
be observed over several years. Nowadays, it is common for
government and public institutions to have a web presence

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