Friday, May 24, 2024

A recap on excuses given by government on the Access to Information Bill since 2011



Recent Government position on the ATI bill:Whats the real issue?

The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) welcomes Government’s recent announcement from the Ministry of Information that a consultant has been engaged to harmonise the Draft ATI Bill with “13 other existing pieces of legislation. This is, indeed a very necessary exercise if this important piece of legislation is to realise its intended purpose. As JCTR, we remain committed to championing the enactment of the law and to work collaboratively with the government to ensure that the law is passed without any further delays. We appreciate the government’s effort in updating the public on the status of the bill this far and we want to believe that every explanation we have received so far is valid.

“The only challenge we have is that these explanations seem to be isolated and somehow not foreseen”, said Sr. Kayula Lesa.

[pullquote]Should the public take to the streets like we have seen in the recent past from the PF cadres, to show how much Zambia needs the ATI Law? [/pullquote]

Recap on Explanations advanced by government since 2011

1. Launch postponed because Minister of Information had travelled to Copperbelt for a funeral

We wish to seize this opportunity to recap the explanations advanced by government since 2011. After the legal experts engaged by government drafted the 2012 ATI Bill, the Bill was scheduled to be launched on 21st of June 2012. However, the launch didn’t take place, as we were informed that then Minister of Information had travelled to the Copper belt for a funeral.

2. Rescheduled launch cancelled because further consultation with Attorney General needed

The launch was rescheduled to 26th June, 2012 but yet again cancelled this time because the government needed further consultation from the office of the Attorney General.

3. Guy Scott announces Bill to be tabled before Parliament in February 2012

After the second cancellation there was a long silence on the status of the bill after which Vice President, Hon. Guy Scot, announced at the 2012 Press Freedom Committee of the Post‘s Lucy Sichone and Bright Mwape Award presentation that the bill would be tabled before Parliament in February, 2013.

4.Bill not tabled because of Late Sakeni’s death

And just about a month ago when the Civil Society Coalition on ATI engaged government on the status of the bill, the explanation was that the ATI bill was not tabled before Cabinet because the then Minister of Information and Broadcasting, the Late Kennedy Sakeni (May God Rest his Soul) was ill.

5.Bill not tabled because it needs harmonisation with existing legislation

With all these explanations that we have received from the government, suddenly the issue is now that of harmonization.

Zambians deserve better

Surely, we would like to believe in the good will of the PF government but being human beings, we are also bound to be sceptical because, we have been subjected to endless explanations in regard to the ATI bill. Is government implying that the drafters they engaged in 2012 were so blind to the existence of other Laws that stand in conflict or in tandem with the ATI bill? We were at one point informed that the draft bill was with the Ministry of Justice. One would like to think that one of the things the Justice Ministry looked at was whether the draft was in harmony with other laws. The issue of harmonization comes at a stage when we would have expected the bill to be before parliament having been reviewed by a number of experts including government Ministries.
There has been too much rhetoric surrounding the ATI bill and the Speaker of the national Assembly is in order to demand a ministerial position. Should the public take to the streets like we have seen in the recent past from the PF cadres, to show how much Zambia needs the ATI Law?

Government needs to take stock of their real position and communicate that position to the Zambians because it is our right to know whatever that position is. In fact it’s in government’s own interest to show real commitment towards the completion of this important process and endeavor to present the bill to parliament within the current parliament sitting as promised in their election campaign.

This far, there have been too many positions and it is hard to keep track of what the real issue is about the Access to Information bill. We need to know the truth and the time is now.


  1. They have a “Kilimanjaro” of dirty hidden under the carpet. So it is not in their best interests to give the public access to any information.

  2. I was equally sceptical when Mwamba claimed that the bill had to be harmonised with other pieces of legislation. The truth of the matter is that the drafters are experts and always take care of issues of any impending law being in conflict with the already existing laws. In this vein, one can assume that government has grown cold feet and does not want the information bill to go to parliament. This regime is dictatorial and would not allow a bill that allows free access to information to pass. Mwamba was lying. There is nothing wrong with the draft bill; government is scared of being exposed once this law is passed. What we need is to put pressure on the PF government to give us this law during this session of parliament. If it means demonstrating in the streets, lets do it.

  3. PF will never be sincere in their dealings. Ask Kabimba and Scot who have been dribbled before. It is only FTJ who have out smarted them

  4. This is yet another lie and undelivered promise by the PF. As other couhtries march forward in development and embrace processes that promote accountability, transparency and national development,our PF is obssesed with returning us to the one party era. The one party state DNA is so part of the PF that they even have ‘ sole candidate’. Remember super Ken and UNIP’s mulungushi rock of authority ? The PF has the same mentality, Their intolerance of opposition is reminscent of the one party state. Clearly the PF’s wag of doing things is inconsistent with the Access to Information laws.

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