The new National Director of Public Prosecutions, Menzi Simelane, has reportedly banned all 3 000 prosecutors who fall under him from talking to the media without permission. In doing so, he is showing, again, his lack of appreciation for the principles and values enshrined in our constitution. He is also flying in the face of ANC policy.
Our constitution envisages an open society based on a free flow of information. ANC policy is in line with this, emphasising the importance of openness for the accountability of public servants.
Simelane spokesperson said: “If you have 3 000 employees and every one speaks to the media, how are you going to have control.”
This is potentially one of the most serious recent attacks on the right to information and the capacity of journalists to do their work. Every day in every court, journalists following court cases have to get information from prosecutors. This can be the most basic stuff such as the spelling of names and the details of charges. To block this regular daily contact between prosecutors and journalists could make it much more difficult – if not impossible – for reporters to cover the courts. And that is very serious.
With control as his reason, he is already showing sings of megalomania. And bad management – imposing from above in his first weeks in office a policy that is neither workable nor practical.
The concern is, though government bodies are increasingly slamming the shutters down on the media, making it harder and harder to get information, comment and points of view.