Over the years the Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) team has regularly, in furtherance of our mandate to extend the boundaries of freedom of information in South Africa, collaborated with various researchers and organisations by submitting PAIA requests for records that will aid their work. In addition to the submission of PAIA requests the FOIP team has further assisted researchers and organisations by providing expert opinions and reports in access to information matters.
The following list highlights some of the most important collaborations with researchers and organisations to date:
· Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) –The FOIP team has contributed to the substance of AFIC’s right to information Africa Report 2014 by providing a detailed report relating to the access to information in South Africa.
· The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa in Partnership with the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria – The FOIP team has assisted the Special Rapporteur and the Centre for Human Rights by contributing valuable expert knowledge and research to the Draft Model Law for AU Member States on the Access to Information Project. The team also assisted the Project by presenting at the Consultations on the Draft Model Law on Access to Information in Africa, in Kenya and Tunisia.
· Open Society Justice Initiative – the Police Transparency project focused on a comparative study of different levels of transparency in the police forces in various countries, particularly in relation to the policing of protest action. The FOIP team played a crucial role in this project by making formal PAIA requests to the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and a number of municipalities for records that were not automatically, proactively, available to the researchers.
· Legal Resources Centre (LRC) – The FOIP team is supporting the LRC’s work on ensuring better transparency in public order policing through the clarification of compliance aspects of the Regulation of Gatherings Act by making information such as who are the “Authorised Persons” within the South African Police Services easily accessible. FOIP is submitting various PAIA request to gain access to the information required for this project.
· Privacy International – The FOIP team has submitted 6 PAIA requests to the departments within the security cluster in 2016 for records relating to conflict of interest policies. Any released records will be used to further the research of Privacy International.
· UJ Centre for Social Change – The Centre for Social Change approached SAHA to assist it in submitting various PAIA requests to the South African Police Service for records relating to police data on crowd management incidents. SAHA after consultation with the Dr Carin Runciman submitted requests that resulted in the release of crucial records.
“Without the assistance of SAHA we would not have been able to gain unprecedented access to police data on crowd management incidents. Gaining access to and analysing such data allowed us to demonstrate how such information was being misused both publicly and in parliament. Working with SAHA allowed us to bring this important information into the public domain.” – Dr Carin Runciman
· Transparency international – The FOIP team has in the past assisted Transparency International’s work by submitting various PAIA requests for records that would assist the research and reports Transparency International work on.
· My Vote Counts – My Vote Counts has requested an opinion from the FOIP team on their recent PAIA requests and subsequent court application to have certain sections of PAIA declared unconstitutional.
· Hennie van Vuuren and Michael Marchant – Hennie and Mike are researchers who have collaborated with SAHA on the submission of multiple PAIA requests that relate to the work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). SAHA after consulting with the researchers submitted numerous PAIA requests resulting in the release of records that have furthered the understanding of procurement practices and public accountability during apartheid and has even seen SAHA take matters on appeal to the Courts.
· Howard Varney and Frank Dutton – Being highly active in the Truth and Reconciliation space the FOIP team has on more than a few occasions partnered with Howard and Frank in submitting PAIA requests that have resulted in numerous sensitive TRC records being released to the public.
“The service the FOIP team have given in submitting PAIA requests for the public release of sensitive TRC records has been outstanding. Not only has it been a pleasure working with the team, the released records have advanced our research significantly.” – Frank Dutton
“The Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) of the SA History Archive has proven to be the leading mechanism for extracting information from the state for the purpose of advancing human rights. On numerous occasions I have approached FOIP to assist in securing documents and records needed to vindicate the rights of apartheid-era victims. All these requests have been pursued expeditiously and where FOIP has exhausted all avenues under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA,) it has not hesitated to approach the high courts to compel compliance. In so doing, FOIP has played a significant role in giving real meaning to the constitutional right of access to information.” – Howard Varney
· Theo Botha – Theo has partnered with the FOIP team who submitted a PAIA request on his behalf to Coronation, seeking access to records related to record keeping practices of the organisation. The decision, refusing access to recordings of the annual general meetings and indicating that Coronation has no policies guiding minuting of annual general meetings and the keeping of such minutes, suggests a failure to embrace the culture of transparency and accountability that the Constitution and PAIA mandates.
· Mark Heywood – the FOIP team has assisted Mark in the submission of a PAIA request for the written submissions made by Paula McBride to the TRC on the role of the judiciary under apartheid which will assist him in the drafting of his book which is expected to be published in March 2017.
· Professor Jane Duncan – SAHA has submitted various PAIA requests in collaboration with Professor Duncan. Notably one of the PAIA requests has been taken up on appeal to the Courts along with a couple of PAIA requests submitted in collaboration with Hennie van Vuuren, in the same Application.
“The South African History Archives has provided an invaluable resource to me as a researcher, as they have filed information requests in my area of interest, tracked their progress in painstaking detail, kept me informed at all stages and taken remedial action if the requests are refused on unacceptable grounds. Most researchers would not have the capacity to use PAIA and to enforce their rights of PAIA is not respected, so their wonderful work in this area has strengthened research enormously.” – Professor Jane Duncan