Information is the lifeblood of political accountability. Without reliable, timely information, citizens are unable to evaluate and constructively engage with what their government is doing. If such information is absent, willfully denied, physically inaccessible, or not available in a format that is understandable to users, public accountability is undermined (ANSA-EAP, 2017).
Citizens’ right to information is recognized in international human-rights standards and treaties, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights African Freedom of Information Centre, 2014). Even so, some observers argue that access-to-information laws are being used to clamp down on the free flow of information instead of creating a conducive environment for citizens to access public information (African Freedom of Information Centre, 2017) In Zimbabwe, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is often criticized for limiting access to information.
Afrobarometer’s 2017 survey finds that a majority of Zimbabweans endorse the idea that information held by public authorities is not just for use by the government but should be shared with the public. However, it also finds widespread skepticism about whether citizens can actually access such information at local levels, such as school budgets and district development plans.