Access to Information

There was the Dinosaur Age, the Ice Age, the Iron Age, the Bronze Age, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Industrial Age and … now, apparently, we are living in the Information Age. Health, wealth, power – even winning a Super Rugby game – is dependent upon information.

Our Constitution recognises that citizens have a right to information that is held by the State, as well as any information that is held by another person and which is required for the exercise or protection of any rights. That is what the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2000 is all about. It gives effect to these rights, and sets up mechanisms for their protection and enforcement.

  1. It is a criminal offence for any person who, with intent to deny a right of access in terms of the Act:
    • destroys, damages or alters any recorded information (a ‘record’);1
    • conceals any record;2
    • falsifies a record;3 or
    • makes a false record.4
  2. Every public body must compile a manual on its functions and an index of all its records. There is an ‘information officer’ designated, whose job it is to see that all the obligations in this regard are complied with. If he fails to comply with any of the provisions of the Act, in this regard, he commits an offence.5

  3. The same applies to a private body. The head of a private body who (wilfully, or in a grossly negligent manner) fails to compile the statutory manual listing of all the relevant information (and keep it updated) commits an offence.6
  1. Section 90(1)(a). 

  2. Section 90(1)(b). 

  3. Section 90(1)(c). 

  4. Section 90(1)(c). 

  5. Section 90(2) read with section 14. 

  6. Section 90(3) read with section 51.