The Centre for Civil Society (CCS) within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies held its first seminar for 2018 in February. The seminar held in collaboration with the Right2Know Campaign (R2K) focused on the issue of ‘public interest’ in the context of the controversial book The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw.
R2K has been invited to be amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the court case between the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and Pauw. SARS took legal action against Pauw last year claiming that his book violates the Tax Administration Act. The speaker at the seminar was Siviwe Mdoda, a member of the R2K National Working Group responsible for designing popular education programs.
Seminar discussions centred on the right to privacy and protection of taxpayers’ information which is the argument put forward by SARS. Seminar participants debated how far tax information should be made transparent and also questioned the way in which tax laws serve citizens.
Discussions further focused on ‘public interest’ – the argument put forward by Jacques Pauw’s defence. Here seminar participants debated the importance and methods for protecting citizens’ access to information especially in the context of corruption and the overall quality of democracy in South Africa.
Another discussion that arose was the age of social media and whether it was possible to completely suppress publications such as The President’s Keepers which has become available in pdf format.
CCS Director Dr Shauna Mottiar said, ‘Discussions such as these, centred on the public interest and the right to information are critical at this point in South Africa.’