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SAHA - FOIP – FOIP training programme

FOIP training programme

FOIP Capacity Building Project: Community Sector-Based Training

Since April 2008 SAHA's Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) has developed its Freedom of Information Project, Capacity Building in the Community, sector-based training to become one of the lead organisations in South Africa offering multi-level training and capacity building to organisations and individuals who can most benefit from using PAIA.

The project aims to empower individuals and organisations from targeted sectors to understand and utilise the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) as a strategic advocacy tool. It gives effect to core aspects of recommendations set out in a 2007 SAHA-commissioned feasibility study. The pilot project initially focused on the gender-based violence and transitional justice sectors, working with Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC) and Khulumani Support Group respectively. In 2010 SAHA continued the project focussing on public participation, with Black Sash, and on environmental justice, with groundWork, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance. In 2011 SAHA worked with the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex (LGBTI) sector, including African Men for Sexual Health Rights, Free Gender, Forum for the Empowerment of Women, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action, Gender Dynamix, Inclusive and Affirming Ministries, Intersex South Africa, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, OUT LGTB Well-Being, People Opposing Women Abuse and uSizo Lwanamuhla. In the years since, SAHA has worked also with activists and activist organisations within the housing and education sectors, exploring, in 2014, with peer organisations, opportunities for collaborative access to information and advocacy work on critical basic education issues.

SAHA's unique program offers (i) training to individuals through a series of multiple workshops, (ii) shadow mentor programmes, (iii) the setting up of PAIA networks and (iv) at the organisational level, assistance with the implementation of PAIA within the existing structure of an organisation, or, where necessary, assistance with the setting up or amendment of structures that can be implemented in order to accommodate PAIA. As such, FOIP makes a valuable contribution to democracy building in South Africa offering a bottom-up approach by empowering individuals and organisations to hold public and private bodies accountable, encouraging a more participatory democracy and digging at the very heart of a faceless bureaucratic state.

PAIA Coordinators trained up through the PAIA Shadow Mentor Programme are welcomed to join the PAIA Civil Society Network.

A number of products have been developed as part of this project, including the PAIA Resource Kit, PAIA Workshop Guide, PAIA: Case Studies from Civil Society DVD and Guide, Accessing Information in the LGBTI Sector, LGBTI and Access to Information in Africa, Accessing Information for Your Community, Activating PAIA for Advocacy, Using PAIA to Promote Housing Rights, PAIA Unpacked and Accessing Information for Better Basic Education.

FOIP Capacity Building Project: Local Government Capacity Building

Since 2015, the Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) has focused on extending its capacity building project by partnering with local government to train local government officials in the use of and compliance with PAIA. In terms of PAIA, government institutions, including those at local government level, are required not only to respond to requests submitted by members of the public for government-held information within the timeframes provided in PAIA, but also to ensure that key information required by communities is made available proactively. Ultimately, FOIP seeks through this project to extend and deepen the capacity of local government to handle PAIA requests and address the broader context of access to information within South Africa.

Local government, as the sphere of government at the forefront of participatory democracy, is responsible for involving citizens in meaningful deliberations regarding governance which in turn requires access to information. The project therefore aims increase meaningful participation in the democratic process, through the provision of access to information and includes engagement with community activists to determine information needs and to ensure that those needs are raised in training with municipal officials. Training with municipal officials includes consideration of proactive disclosure duties under section 15 of PAIA and intersection legislation, the development of mechanisms to ensure timely and compliant responses to PAIA requests and the role of Information and Deputy Information Officers. The focus in this training is on access to information as a fundamental right which allows us to access other rights. By engaging with these issues, SAHA seeks through these workshops to promote a more refined insight into  what sort of information could or should be made proactively available. Given the complexity and importance of this legislation, the Local Government Capacity Building Project seeks to illuminate the importance and value of the constitutional right of access to information and to improve empathy with communities having information needs. Ultimately, the workshops provide a framework for compliance with the legislation, specifically promoting understanding with respect to what sort of information could or should be proactively available.

In the pilot phase of this project, in 2015, FOIP partnered with Emfuleni and Makana Municipality on the provision of training for municipal employees involved in handling issues around PAIA.

Concurrent to the training offered to municipalities, FOIP meets with local community activists from the municipal area serviced by the municipality receiving training. This is to identify information needs within those communities, which is then incorporated into training with municipal employees involved in handling issues around PAIA. These information sessions, with community activists, are organised in collaboration with the kind assistance of partner organisations with established relationships with such activists.

In the pilot phase of this project, in 2015, FOIP partnered with Right2Know Campaign (R2K) and Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) to reach out to communities in the Emfuleni and Makana Municipal areas, in order to determine the information needs in those communities.

PAIA Short Workshops

SAHA also provides short workshops introducing groups of individuals or organisations to PAIA. If you are interested in learning more about these workshops or would like to request that SAHA provide an introductory workshop on PAIA for your organisation please contact the Freedom of Information Programme