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Tony Leon Highlights the Need for Openness and Accountability for Democracy

The Accidental AmbassadorTony Leon has written about the need for accountability and openness in order for democracy to flourish in South Africa in an article for Business Day. Leon, author of The Accidental Ambassador: From Parliament to Patagonia, quotes Louis Brandeis who said that “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

Way back in 1913, writing on the benefits of transparency, Louis Brandeis said: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” He went on to become one of the most progressive and acclaimed judges of the US Supreme Court and one of the staunchest proponents of that essential combination for a free democracy to flourish — the government’s obligation to be open and the citizen’s right to privacy.

We can but speculate, a century later and an ocean or two away, how Brandeis would view our democratic republic today, nearly 20 years after its founding. We can go much further back to describe our paradox. A snapshot of our present crises conjures up the famous figure from ancient Greek mythology, Tantalus. The son of Zeus, he was condemned to stand mid-waist in water and yet was dying of thirst.

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