Current Vacancy: Regional Advocacy Programme Officer

Posted in Blog

The Open Democracy Advice Centre is a non-for-profit law centre and is the leading expert in relation to access to information and whistleblower protection laws in South Africa, and on the continent. We work to realise an open, transparent government and private sector in South Africa and the region through policy and law reform advocacy, capacity building and research.

REGIONAL ADVOCACY PROGRAMME OFFICER (Cape Town)

Contract Period: 01 Jan 2015 - 30 March 2016

ODAC has an ambitious Africa programme, which involves engaging with civil society and government stakeholders in advocacy for advancement of the right to information. We link access to information to other issues, such as socio-economic development, the environmental justice and land rights, getting genuine traction for transparency with communities, and supporting an active citizenry working for a transparent state.

The applicant will serve as co-ordinator of the Africa Programme working to support our partners in Zambia, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana, Namibia and Mozambique. The applicant should be able to engage in high-level advocacy involving senior government officials and elected representatives, while at the same time being able to work at local community levels – and be equally comfortable with both.

The applicant should have an academic background in politics, journalism or law, with a strong interest in deep change processes, and be enthusiastic about transparency and accountability. Travel is a requirement of the job. Proficiency in English is a requirement and French as an additional language will be an advantage.

Applications with a covering letter and a comprehensive Curriculum Vitae must be submitted to ODAC, for the attention of Ms. Radiyah Hendricks at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Telephonic inquiries can be made to +27 21 447 1198

Closing date:  12 December 2014 at 16h00

Current Vacancy: Operations Manager

Posted in Blog

 

The Open Democracy Advice Centre is a non-for-profit law centre, and the leading expert in relation to access to information and whistleblower protection laws in South Africa, and on the continent. We work to realise an open, transparent government and private sector in South Africa and the region through policy and law reform advocacy, capacity building and research.

OPERATIONS MANAGER (Deputy Executive Director level) (Cape Town)

Contract Period: 01 Jan 2015 - 30 March 2016

The applicant will be responsible for managing staff and operations and ensuring effective management of projects. They should ensure staff reporting on different focus areas of ODAC’s work and should ensure implementation of budget and management of costs and financial resources. The applicant will also support the Executive Director in managing stakeholder relations and being able support ODAC’s fundraising efforts and servicing our donors.

Requirements: The applicant should have strong project management skills and be able to help strengthen our administration of a wide range of local and regional advocacy projects on transparency and accountability. The applicant should have a track record and passion for social-justice advocacy.

The applicant should have an academic background in politics, social studies or law. The application should be able produce high-quality project reports and have an analytical eye. Independent thinkers are encouraged to apply and demonstrated research abilities will be an advantage.

Applications with a covering letter and a comprehensive Curriculum Vitae must be submitted to ODAC, for the attention of Ms. Radiyah Hendricks at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Telephonic inquiries can be made to +27 21 447 1198

Closing date:  12 December 2014 at 16h00

A first step to getting a grip on the internet and human rights

Posted in Blog

By Gabriella Razzano

On the 12th of August ODAC joined the Association of Progressive Communications and others to discuss access to content and connectivity in Africa.

This followed from the detailed submissions ODAC had made in response to an early draft of the African Declaration on Internet Freedom of Rights. And those discussions were strongly influenced by Frank La Rue’s seminal report delivered to the Human Rights Council in 2011 that explored in some detail the different valuable influences the internet has in the promotion of the right to freedom of expression and access to information. When the piece came out, it sparked a great debate on “internet as a human right”.

And that debate continued when we met in Johannesburg. And I think it is vital we continue to explore it; not just to be pedantic about how we talk about rights – but because I do not think the human rights sector is being rigorous enough when we consider the internet as some form of an alien realm.

In his piece La Rue stated:

“…the framework of international human rights law remains relevant today and equally applicable to new communication technologies such as the Internet.”

While I have a lot of strong feelings on the topic, the main thing I want to discuss in brief here is why we shouldn’t talk about the internet as some form of ‘new problem’ that may need a ‘new right’; at least not today. My concerns here are practical, rather than theoretical.

 1.    It’s already here; we need to deal with it.

We have comprehensive doctrine on the application of human rights. And the internet is here to stay. We need to deal with it in courtrooms; and trying to reinvent rights discourse – instead of relying on established principles – will only confuse things.

And outside of courtrooms, what do we gain by trying to confuse our tried and tested language? Access to information activists should speak about the internet for their work. So should housing activists. So should gender activists. We may as well use the language we already know how to use; and at the same time acknowledge, vitally, that it is a conversation we should all be having.

2.    It’s not just about access.

Equal access to internet is obviously a concern. But when the internet has been embodied in a specific constitutional instrument, such as in France, Costa Rica or Estonia, it is done so only in consideration of access to infrastructure.

La Rue noted that the internet also concerns the right of access to content. Once we are online, how we are online becomes a matter whether of protection too. How can we exercise free expression when given restricted access to Twitter, for example? Even this is a limited understanding of the importance of the internet for human rights – and that’s because rights documents are instruments largely of vertical application. Decisions, for example, that relate to the civil relationship on copyright and intellectual property may also be hugely impactful on actual rights online – how would a standalone right fully appreciate this?

3.    Rights discourse has moved on – and we’ve run out of flag colours.

Rights discourse initially followed an historical progression through first, second and third generation rights. Karel Vasak linked these rights (civil political, socio-economic and collective, respectively) to the French revolutionary principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. But while these forms of jurisprudential insights into rights may still help in academic environments, the recognition of the interdependence of all rights has long moved us on from a linear understanding.

This is practical, but it is also an acknowledgement of not prioritising rights in any order, which may not allow for considered application in different country contexts. We shouldn’t be working in ‘rights’ silos – not just because it is ineffective, but because threats to the internet may come from areas and perspectives we are not focused on. Regulations relating to telecommunications, mass surveillance, court judgments on hosts and search engine responsibilities; these are potential threats not only to the internet, and the internet as a space, but a host of other fundamental human rights we should be speaking to.

In the end though, I agree that the internet is special. I believe it should be warranted a special degree of freedom that is also difficult to articulate within standard rights discourses. But I am not trying to resolve how to deal with that now. Instead, I want to note that the internet has become integrated into our way of life. It is not an alien that needs to be seen as separate; it instead is embedded into how we live and needs to be talked about in a language that we all understand. It has advantages and disadvantages, but it is always worth remembering that the disadvantages mimic those we see already: preferential and unequal access, abuse by the powerful, and a lack of full empathy for the vulnerable.

Let’s start leveraging the internet for the advancement of all human rights, and guarding its sanctity as zealously as we would guard any fundamental human right; even if we don’t call it one.

OGP to take a stronger African focus

Posted in Blog

By Mukelani Dimba, Executive Director

African governance issues are set to enjoy more attention and spotlight with more African government and civil society representatives set to assume leadership positions in the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The government of South Africa will be confirmed as one of the co-chairs of the OGP when heads of state meet in New York on 23 September 2014 on the margins on the United National General Assembly. South Africa will become a lead co-chair of the OGP in 2016. On the civil society side two civil society leaders from Africa have been selected to join the steering committee. They are Alvin Mosioma from the Tax Justice Network Africa from Kenya and Mukelani Dimba from the Open Democracy Advice Centre in South Africa. Mosioma and Dimba join Tanzania’s Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza who has been a member of the steering committee since inception in 2011 and is the current OGP co-chair for civil society.

The OGP is a voluntary initiative aimed at enhancing open governance in the countries that are taking part in it. Countries qualify to join OGP on the basis their current performance in terms of access to information and asset disclosure laws, budget transparency and civic engagement processes. Once countries have joined OGP they have to commit to making specific improvements in terms of any of the OGP’s grand challenges which are; improving public services, increasing public integrity, more effectively managing public resources, creating safer communities, increasing corporate accountability.

Since its inception in 2011, only seven African countries have joined the OGP, namely; South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Malawi. We hope that many other African countries will join this initiative but, even more importantly, we hope that those countries that have joined will implement their national action plans sincerely and meaningfully in a manner that creates real change in the lives of many that depend on the state for honest delivery of public service.

Whistleblowing: no easy time

Posted in Blog

 By Alison Tilley

Whistleblowers have never had an easy time of it.  Back in the day, Plutarch, tells us that a messenger reported bad news to an Armenian general. He said  that a Roman general (plus army) was on his way to attack the Armenian general: the messenger had his head cut off for his pains. “[The Armenian general] sat while war was already blazing around him, with no one daring to bring him further information. He was without any intelligence at all, giving ear only to those who flattered him.” The Armenian guy lost.

So since 60AD until 2014AD, we have sat with the same problem – the temptation to shoot the messenger. And the risk we run is still the same: we will lose the war, against corruption, environmental degradation, bullying, and so on. So, how to win the war?

Listen to your messengers sounds easy enough. We don’t – we fire them, demote them, and even shoot them. Our Protected Disclosures Act doesn’t go far enough to protect whistleblowers. New amendments, partly introduced because of ODAC’s extensive advocacy on this issue, will go some way to extend the reach of the law.

But the new amendments don’t provide a safe alternative to silence for the general public or so called “citizen whistleblowers”[1].

The ISS National Victims of Crime Survey found that an unacceptably high number of the most vulnerable members of society are victims of corruption within both the public and private sectors. The survey found that many people, when applying for basic services like their grants, identity documents and pensions, and when applying for employment, often are subjected to corrupt conduct, bribery being at the forefront. The same study found that there was a dominant culture of silence amongst these people.

The majority (98%) did not blow the whistle on the corruption experienced by them or their family members. The three main reasons for their reluctance to blow the whistle were because 21 % did not know to whom to blow the whistle, 46% of respondents did not blow the whistle because they did not think it would change anything and as many as 27% said they did not do so for fear of reprisals.

Since 2007[2] internal tip offs as a source of detecting crime dropped from 22% to 9%. Reports using formal whistleblowing systems have also dropped in effectiveness off a high of 21% in 2009 to 6%. In ODAC’s surveys, we have noted a decline in the number of people who describe themselves as whistleblowers.  25.3% of respondents said that they had blown the whistle in 2007, which had dropped to 18.4% in 2011.

What would happen if we gave whistleblowers a different kind of protection? In The Whistleblower Act, 2006, which is the equivalent Ghanaian law, section 24 simply states that:

 24. A whistleblower whose disclosure results in the recovery of an amount of money shall be rewarded from the fund with

 (a) ten percent of the amount of money recovered; or

 (b) the amount of money that the Attorney-General shall, in consultation with the Inspector General of Police, determine.

Money might go some way to buy the physical security whistleblowers need, and not provided for by police, the NPA or anyone else. As we have said, the percentage of people who self identify as prepared to blow the whistle has dropped by 7% over the last 7 years. This is probably as a result of ongoing attacks on whistleblowers. Recent deaths include the murder of Johan Ndlovu, chief whip of the Ehlanzeni district municipality killed in January 2011, Sammy Mpatlanyane, director of communication at the provincial department of arts and culture killed in January 2010 and Jimmy Mohlala who was murdered outside his home in January 2009. Police records show that since 1998 at least 14 government officials or politicians have been killed.

 We need to do more to protect whistleblowers. This review of the Protected Disclosures Act is only a beginning.

 


[1] We use the term while noting that the meaning of ‘citizen’ here is a person concerned with wrongdoing, as in ‘concerned citizen’, not an actual citizen as in their residency status.
[2] PwC Global Economic Crime Survey 2014: page 18