'Lack of access to information allows StratCom agents to rule from the grave'

Journalist Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki will be approaching the High court in an attempt to get apartheid documents declassified to clear her name.

Gqubule-Mbeki is one of the journalists accused of writing false reports about the struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela under an operative called StratCom (Strategic Communications) during the apartheid era.

Madikizela-Mandela named the alleged group of journalists in a video clip published on HuffPost SA.

The video has now been removed.

Gugulethu Mhlungu spoke to Hennie Van Vuuren, Research Associate of Open Secrets at Institute for Justice and Reconciliation on the need for declassifying Apartheid-era documents.

There is a wealth of material that remains in the apartheid archives and when we were undertaking research as Open Secrets for the book Apartheid, Guns and Money, we were surprised by the extent of information that remains in the archive and that was not destroyed at the end of apartheid.

Hennie Van Vuuren, Research Associate of Open Secrets at Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

Citizens don't have automatic access to it. We have a record keeping system in our country which does not give us automatic access and so we have to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act, the freedom of information act to access those records.

Hennie Van Vuuren, Research Associate of Open Secrets at Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

In some instances, like the Reserve Bank and others, still continue until today, to we believe, undermine the constitution to not giving us access to out right to information.

Hennie Van Vuuren, Research Associate of Open Secrets at Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

He says the process is not for the faint-hearted.

That process in itself is not a question of just going straight to the courts. What is crucial is the records she wants are from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and those are held by the Department of Justice. It took us almost two to three years to get access to basic information that the department had from the TRC on murdered activists which should be in the public domain.

Hennie Van Vuuren, Research Associate of Open Secrets at Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

This is precisely this lack of access to information allows the StratCom agents to rule from the grave. These people who have helped to fuel this fire on twitter and elsewhere I think would be proud of the kind of mess that they have created with accusations. This is precisely what they wanted to do, muddy the waters, ensure that we no longer believe in the media as a source of information.

Hennie Van Vuuren, Research Associate of Open Secrets at Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

Click on the link below to listen to the full interview...


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