South Africa's 2015-2016 African OGP Agenda

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Yesterday, 29 October 2015, ODAC were honoured to attend the Grand Opening of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) at the exquisite Belles Artes, Mexico City. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the hundred in attendance with a focused and clear vision of how South Africa will hold the position of Chair of the OGP in the upcoming year (the full text of his talk is already available here).

There were very many interesting takeaways, However  for ODAC in particular, it was the mention of the African Peer Review Mechanism that piqued our interest, given that today at the OGP Summit in Mexico at 3pm in Room Bernardo Quintana we will be presenting a panel (alongside Henry Maina of Article 19 and Thokozani Thusi of Public Services and Administration) entitled: "The OGP and Other Mechanisms: Competition or Partners?". Ramaphosa stated:

"We believe there is a lot we can learn from how the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) conducts its business and ensures open, collegial, and equal participation of countries that partake in it.
Through the African Peer Review Mechanism, the African continent contributed significantly to the formulation of the goals and targets of the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. History calls upon all of us to respond to people’s basic needs such as food, water, sanitation, healthcare and education."

The happy co-existence of mechanisms has not always be 'given' by different critics. Yet, particularly as the incorporation of the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 has been such a focus of this Summit, considered insight needs to be provided. It was with this in mind that ODAC completed a comprehensive piece of research into the question. Our main takeaways were:

  1. The OGP has a particular - and necessary - focus on transparency and the forwarding of accountable government.
  2. Review mechanisms can be harmonised, but particularly if - when commitments under the OGP are drafted - there is adequate consultation and considered incorporation.
  3. The focus on the improvement of the provision of data through the OGP can directly contribute to the measurement of indicators in other systems.
  4. There is a systematic series of questions, revealed in the report, that can assist in determining how different mechanisms might complement and differ.

For more insights, join us today at 3pm in Room Bernard Quintana.



Blikkiesdorp Documentary Launch

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A conference is being held by ODAC today, the 23rd, at the Townhouse Hotel titled: “Alternative accommodation” in South African constitutional law – Does Blikkiesdorp meet the standard?” Symphony Way Temporary Relocation Area, otherwise knows as Blikkiesdorp,  was built in 2008 by the City of Cape Town with the goal to fulfil the City’s constitutional obligation to provide adequate accommodation in the case of evictions or emergencies and to facilitate informal settlements upgrading.

The structures are called Bliks by local resident. Is what local residents call ‘a blik’ acceptable alternative accommodation? The units in Blikkiesdorp are built up in a block structure of 18 blocks, which are separated by dirt roads. Most units are prefabricated steel framed units complete with internal thermal insulation. The material is not only very easy to break into, which contributes to the already high crime rate, but it also lacks insulation: Blikkiesdorp is known among the residents to be either extremely hot or extremely cold. Is that acceptable?

We will be using this event as an opportunity to launch a short documentary documenting the work over the last year to access information on the future of Blikkiesdorp at 4pm today. We will share this here soon!

APAI Victory: one step closer

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- by Gabriella Razzano
ODAC have been involved in the African Platform on Access to Information Working Group for many years. In fact, our Head of Legal - Gabriella Razzano - currently sits as Chairperson of the Group. The Working Group of APAI is a network of civil society organisations that are working on the promotion of access to information in Africa. It was set up in 2009 to develop a platform for joint activities around ATI.

One of the fundamental goals of the group has been for the adoption by UNESCO of a dedicated Right to Information Day (which we currently informally celebrate on 28 September 2015). After significant lobbying efforts by the Group over the last few years, victory is almost in sight. Yesterday the Executive Board of UNESCO adopted a Resolution containing a recommendation to the General Conference to adopt September 28 as International Access to Information Day. You can download a copy of the Resolution here to learn a bit more.

The Resolution will now go before the 38th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference, which will take place in Paris from November 3 to 18, 2015. The adoption seems inevitable at the stage - but is wholly attributable to the fine advocacy work of the Working Group. Congratulations to all involved!

Our 4 key lessons "so far" on social media

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- Gabriella Razzano

Non-governmental organisations can be surprisingly slow to adapt (well, perhaps not surprising to all). Particularly when it comes to social media and marketing, there seems little energy to adapt and utilise this consistently shifting but powerful world to forward our work. Recognising this gap, in 2013 Indigo Trust and ODAC undertook a project to bring together different ngo's to work on our social media through workshops. These proved enlightening and inspiring for many of us (groups such as Fundza Literacy Trust, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, Code for South Africa and others), but still we needed more! Last month, again with the support of Indigo Trust, we began one-on-one sessions with digital consultants to forward our missions. This service, provided by the wonderful Nicky Cosgreave and Katie Findlay of Edge Digital in Cape Town, has proved hugely empowering and inspiring. After almost a year of workshopping, and a month of one on one content, here are the top four lessons ODAC have been privileged to takeaway "so far":

1)    We are natural communicators

Non-governmental organisations often treat their social media and marketing as an after thought or chore. We forget that communicating our message on awareness is in fact a core function in a human rights activist organisation. We should allocate time and personnel accordingly. Our work is actually easy to translate for messaging, and organisations like ours are rich with content – we just need to think clearly about how to communicate on our work consistently.

2)    There’s no need to recreate the wheel

One of the biggest complaints consistently harangued by ngo-types on social media is the “we just don’t have the time”. As a jump-off from point one, we should make the time. But more importantly, it doesn’t need to take a lot of time: you can be re-packaging content in creative ways, rather than repeatedly creating new content from scratch. Also, by setting aside a few hours every month to set up a social media plan ahead of time in which everybody can also share the load, you won’t have an excuse when the month gets busy.

3)    Spend a little and get a lot

Another common complaint is cost. However, most social media platforms are free. Further, there is immense power in spending even a tiny amount of money on Facebook, in particular, if you want to build your audience. In our first boosted post (and with only ZAR 70), we reached 1600 people, which was massive considering the small size of our audience at the time. As ngo’s, we should be specifically fundraising for social media and marketing within each project proposal. Funders understand the importance of exposure – we should too.

4)    Results are measurable

A week after having our first session, we had doubled our page likes. Our posts now see considerable audience engagement, as well. And our website traffic has improved – since the same period in the previous year, we have seen a 10% increase in overall users and a 20% increase in visits. A further incredible encouragement for us, given that we are legal experts and content specialists, is that we are seeing visitors spend almost 15% more time on our website and 26% more time on individual pages, meaning they are finding new information they like. Our blog posts have also started featuring more heavily as the “most visited” pages.

As an organisation with a strong research department, it is encouraging to be able to measure our progress and then convert our learning into improved practice.



BREAKING NEWS: Constitutional Court Win for Whistleblower

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The Department of Roads and Public Works in the Northern Cape has failed in a desperate attempt to stave off implementation of a court order returning a whistleblower to work, with the Constitutional Court of South Africa dismissing their last ditch effort at appeal.

The whistleblower, Mr. Motingoe,  was employed as the head of Legal Services at the Department of Roads and Public Works in the Northern Cape. In 2013 Mr Motingoe blew the whistle on irregularities in the Department involving the tender process of a civil construction work/project at the Theekloof-pass. Mr Motingoe has a Labour Court order, and an arbitration award, against the Head of the Department, Mr K Nogwili ,and the MEC, Mr David Rooi, with both orders saying the suspension was because of his blowing the whistle, and therefore had to be allowed back to work.

The Department has used a private law firm to appeal the Labour Appeal Court order, and failed. They then applied to the Supreme Court of Appeal and failed, and applied to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal. This has also failed.

Contempt proceedings against the Head of Department and MEC in the Northern Cape were heard in the Labour Court in Cape Town in August this year, and a judgement is awaited.

Lorraine Martin, head of the whistleblower support unit at ODAC, comments that “the cost for the whistleblower in this case have not just been the legal costs, in which he has been partly supported by ODAC, but the personal costs. He has been suspended for almost 2 years, been attacked in the media, and suffered reputational damage. We have no doubt these legal stratagems are fruitless and wasteful expenditure, and a waste of tax payer money. It is unsurprising that whistleblowers see the law as ineffective, and we urge the Department of Justice to introduce long awaited amendments to the Protected Disclosures Act."

Contact Lorraine Martin 083 530 8181 for more detail.