South Africa continues, despite itself, to cling to secrecy and the silencing of voices in situations where openness and transparency are required by our constitutional and legal framework. A history of secrecy in exile and secrecy inside apartheid South Africa have left a deep commitment to secrecy in the DNA of our country’s government, the ruling party, and business, as well as a commitment to the gathering of a loyal cadre of unquestioning followers as a necessary condition for survival.
This tendency towards secrecy has been recognized, and an elaborate framework has been put in place intended to counter it, including transparency rights and laws, and independent mechanisms such as the Public Protector, the Auditor General, the SAHRC, and, ultimately, the courts. These laws include the Protected Disclosures Act, and its forthcoming amendment, the Companies Act, and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
In many cases, reporting of corruption or maladministration is followed by harassment and even assault. In our publication Heroes Under Fire, we outline the experience of a number of whistleblowers, and document their harassment, and even assassination. We know from our research that there is increasing distrust of the ability of the law to protect whistleblowers and a declining number of people who self-identify as whistleblowers. There is also a recognition from auditors that the number of people reporting corruption in the workplace is going down. The attacks on high profile people are especially important which is why ODAC has chosen to support Alide Dasnois in her ground-breaking case against Independent Media.