Nature of Services
Our specific services include:
- research consultancies
- policy advice
- strategic litigation advice
- legal training
- policy training
These services fall within the thematic areas of access to information (and the Promotion of Access to Information Act); whistle-blowing (and the Protected Disclosures Act); open government and open data, and other transparency-related issues including issues that relate to privacy.
Some examples of previous legal services we have provided are detailed below.
Freedom of Information (FOI) Clinic in conjunction with the University of the Western Cape
Clinical legal education:
Venue: University of the Western Cape
Lecture Lesson Plans:
Two lectures were given in relation to the promotion of access to information action.
BACKGROUND INFO on FOI Clinics
Freedom of Information (FOI) Clinic South Africa
Ten years after the enactment of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) in South Africa, it is an unfortunate reality that the level of usage and awareness of this Act is dismal. In comparison to similar open democracy legislation, the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA), where heavy jurisprudence is in abundance, litigation in the area of access to information is scant. The use of PAIA in the courts is however bound to increase. This is particularly likely since, in an important recent development, the courts in which PAIA may be used have been significantly expanded. A sigh of relief went up from access to information advocates across South Africa when, on 9 October 2009, rules of procedure were promulgated that set down the standards by which PAIA requests could be enforced in the Magistrates’ Courts.
These rules fulfilled the last of the conditions necessary to enable enforcement of PAIA in the courts far more accessible to the majority of the national population than the High Courts. The rules came into operation on 16 November 2009.
While the operation of these rules is laudable, a vital question needs to be posed. To what extent can PAIA be used to fulfill its mandate of assisting the people of South Africa to realize their socio-economic rights? Writing not in respect of access to information generally but rather in respect of its utility in the achievement of socio-economic justice, Mukelani Dimba has discussed the role of PAIA litigation. Drawing on the argument of Saras Jagwanth that access to information primarily plays an instrumental role in the achievement of socio-economic rights; Dimba sees access to information as a necessary aid for either social mobilisation or for litigation in order to enforce socio-economic rights.
Aside from litigation however, there is the need to first educate and promote awareness of the Act among the citizenry and such platform needs to be extended from civil society alone to include universities and the legal profession. There is no better place to target the legal profession other than through aspiring lawyers who can assist people in realizing that they can enforce their rights through the use of PAIA without any or minimal assistance. It is high time we collectively responded to the question posed to freedom of information stakeholders that given the continued state reliance upon and rolling out of the judicial enforcement model, how can stakeholders interested to effectively implement the right of access to information most effectively complement and supplement enforcement through the courts? One of the answers to this question would be to widen the pool of information champions who can assist people in making information requests and educate people on how to use this Act independently.
In a bid to expand the pool of champions of freedom of information in South Africa and increase the level of education and awareness of the legislation, the Open Democracy Advice Centre wishes to set up a Freedom of Information Clinic in an existing Law Clinic in a University.
Journalist Exchange Programme (JEP) 2010
ODAC journalist exchange programme identifies individuals internationally who are practitioners and specialists in the field of access to information.
- 1. To assist journalists and access to information practitioners in South Africa, in using PAIA and other measures to access information,to empower the lives of every citizen.
- 2. For journalists between two countries (South Africa and Netherlands) to share their experiences on Freedom of Information laws and how to embrace principles of good governance (both public and private bodies).
- 3. Give lectures to Journalism and Media Writing students on using access to information Acts in investigative journalism.
ODAC 2010 exchange programme involved two Journalists from the Netherlands
Duration of Programme - 1 week
The journalist visited (amongst others) the following institutions during their one week programme:
- Pretoria News
- Netherlands Ambassador
- University of Johannesburg
- University of Witwatersrand
- University of Pretoria
- 702 Talk radio
In the END
The Roger and Roel agreed that the study trip opened their eyes to a common standard that is emerging in the field of access to information. Communities and ordinary citizens can utilise access to information principles to achieve socio-economic rights.
ODAC Leading the campaign for the right to know
The Open Democracy Advice Centre expanded its right to know program by reaching out to communities. This initiative is meant to be reaching thousands of citizens who will be informed about PAIA, thus resulting in strengthened transparency and accountability.
In most instances community interventions are run in conjunction with the Community Development Workers (CDWs).The Community Development workers on occasion organise workshops where PAIA support Coordinator (Fieldworker) attends scheduled meetings that teach the community about PAIA. The PAIA support Coordinator continues to assist communities in making request for access to information on behalf of groups and community organizations where interventions are made.
The table below lists the access to information requests that ODAC has made as part of our community interventions to various public departments on behalf of a number of clients and are at different stages of litigation:
|Government Departments||Details of requested|
|City of Cape Town||Documents that details how occupants of ERF 7781 were allocated the land.|
|SASSA||Process and procedure of accessing services within the Tsolwane municipality|
|Records/file notes relating to the case of Ms. Coetzee|
|Oudtshoorn municipality||Documents detailing process to build low cost houses for those who qualify.Housing waiting list.Document with details of the number of houses to be built.|
|Lukhanji Municipality||Records that detail the process followed after approval of a title deed.A record that detail who was allocated the house number 1476.Plans by the municipality to allocate Mrs. Twane her house.|
|Emalahleni Local Municipality||Plans by the municipality to install electricity to houses that were omitted in the Mtyatya village.|
|Garriep Local Municipality||Documents relating to the planned schedule for providing water in Tembisa community. Documents relating to the schedule of planned/unplanned power interruption for the Tembisa community.Copies of all contingency plans relating to planned/unplanned power interruptions.|
|Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Human Settlement||Copies of policies and procedures in the allocation of RDP houses.A copy of the policy requiring the payment of R100 by beneficiaries on occupation.Copies of all plans to renovate vandalised RDP houses.|
|Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Health||Copies of all strategic and other plans to accommodate more patients at the hospital.Copies of all strategic /or other plans to employ a doctor on a daily basis at the hospital.Copies of all strategic and/ or other plans to make more ambulances available.|
|Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism||Copies of the most recent plans and related documents by the Department of Economic Development relating to job creation and entrepreneurial opportunities for youth within the Standerton area.|
|Eastern Cape Department of Justice and Constitutional Development||A copy of the strategic plan by the Department to increase the staff capacity of prosecutors in the James Town district Court.|
|Eastern Cape Department of Education||Copies of all strategic plans relating to the poor performance of grade8, 9, 10, 11 &12 learners at Phambili Mzontsundu High school.Copies of all contingency plans relating to teacher absenteeism for the period 2010 at Phambili Mzontsundu High School.|
|Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture||A copy of the Department’s strategic plan.Copies of all documents listing artist registered with the Department for 2010.Copies of all plans, procedures and policies relating to the Department’s assistance and/or support of local artists.|
|Statistics of unemployed youth in the Lekwa municipality.|
|Lekwa Municipality||Report by the administrators with specific reference to the investigation that was conducted.IDP for the Lekwa municipality.|
|Department of Social Development||Processes and procedures followed when distributing food parcels.Database of organisations funded by the Department.Processes and procedures for funding NPO’s
Procedures for assisting small community projects.
|South African Social Security Agency||Process and procedure followed to accesses foster care grant.Process and procedure followed to suspend one’s social grant.Process and procedure followed to deal with appeals within the district.|