- By Lorraine Martin
ODAC have just begun a project this year which looks to building an African Whistleblowing Network, with the support of the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. We plan on working in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Malawi. The goal of this project is to build the technical capacities of the Network to influence policies that encourage a culture conducive to whistleblowing. I began by visiting Namibia.
On my arrival in Windhoek on Thursday 20 July 2017 I was whisked off to a business lunch at the Fresh and Wild Utopia restaurant in Nelson Mandela Street in Windhoek where I met with the Executive Director of The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), the Strategic Coordinator of Namibia Media Trust , the Programme Coordinator, at FESmedia, the, chairperson of ACTION Namibia and the head of Legal Assistance Centre (LAC).
The conversation centred on our respective whistleblowing laws. Namibia has a Whistleblowing Bill which is in the final stages of passage through Parliament. South Africa has had a law since 2000 and an amendment bill has just been passed by Parliament. [Director's note: we are busy doing a refresh of our Code of Good Practice accordingly, and will soon launch a campaign to inform the broader public of the changes, most of which are terrific!]
The organisations mentioned above have been very active in providing input to the passing of the Namibian Bill. These organisations also form part of a coalition called the ACTION Coalition. The ACTION Coalition is an umbrella body under which a range of activists and civil society and media organisations are gathered in the furtherance of the cause of access/right to information and freedom of expression. The ACTION Coalition has been in existence since 2012 and has consistently engaged both the Namibian Government, and its development partners, on the issue of ATI over the years.
The following morning the Executive Director of the IPPR and I were interviewed on Good Morning Namibia, a breakfast television programme about whistleblowing in our countries. After that we were the presenters at a breakfast seminar at the Nice Restaurant in central Windhoek where the topic was: "Effective whistleblower protections are key to open democracies". The nature and extent of these protections shape the individual’s and the media’s ability to keep public and private institutions accountable. Together, how can we forward a culture of transparency and accountability to meet the needs of citizens? The attendees were mainly members of civil society organisations and media organisations. Lively discussions followed our presentations. It is clear that Namibia has a strong civil society and that the whistleblowing legislation is being followed very closely, and will be monitored once the law is enacted.
At about 11h30 I appeared on another television programme called "1 to 1". This was a pre-recorded programme which aired in the evening. The presenter said that he styled his programme on Hard Talk and he played devil’s advocate quite a bit, which was good because I realised how I was able to defend ODAC’s position on whistleblowing.
Later that evening I bid Namibia goodbye, happy in the knowledge that I had met people who were passionate about whistleblowing protections and happy to be a part of the African Whistleblowing Network.