This statement was originally published on misa.org on February 10, 2017.
MISA Zambia welcomes the pronouncement by Justice Minister Given Lubinda at the 2017 Universal Periodic Review that the Access to Information bill is ready and that government is working on systems that will readily avail the information to the public.
The enactment of the ATI bill is long overdue as it has stalled since 2002 when it was presented to parliament, with successive governments-including the PF government in 2011, making vain promises which have not come to fruition.
The announcement made by the Justice Minister is a positive step and MISA Zambia calls for the process to be expedited as sufficient consultation has already been undertaken by government and other stakeholders in the long period that the bill has been shelved and subsequently revised to meet the common aspirations in national interest.
We call on the two concerned Ministries, the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Information to make the contents of the bill public as an immediate step that will help create awareness and allow all stakeholders to take part in the process which is long overdue. In the same vein, the Ministry of Information must call for a forum for all stakeholders to chart the way forward given the developments regarding the ATI bill since President Edgar Lungu assumed office in 2015.
We also wish to implore the Minister of Justice to give a roadmap for the enactment of the bill as a concrete sign of commitment to avoid his pronouncement joining the long list of vain assurances and announcements on the enactment of the ATI bill by Ministers before him, with the PF government alone having promised to enact the bill on more than 6 occasions since it came to power in 2011 as the ATI bill was one of its key manifesto policies.
MISA Zambia is hopeful that Zambia, as a beacon of democracy, will emulate other democratic governments in the SADC region that have made strides in enshrinement of principles of transparency and accountability through enactment of the ATI bill, with Malawi being the most recent.
MISA Zambia remains committed to the campaign for the enactment of the ATI bill in Zambia and stands ready to support government in the process of enacting the ATI bill. We therefore call on cooperating partners and other civil society stakeholders to continue supporting the campaign and providing checks and balances in order for the ATI bill to see the light of day.