PAIA Unpacked: A Resource for Lawyers and Paralegals

PAIA Unpacked is the result of workshops conducted with lawyers and paralegals from government, private practice and civil society as part of a series of events held by SAHA in celebration of the 10th International Right to Know day in 2012.

The guide explains key legal requirements of the Promotion of Access to Information  Act (PAIA), the enabling law governing how freedom of information requests are made and processed in South Africa. PAIA was introduced to give effect to the right to information guaranteed by section 32 of the Constitution. It sets out a legal framework for making and responding to information requests. However, despite the passage of more than a decade since its introduction, knowledge of the Act remains worryingly low in South Africa.

PAIA Unpacked is intended to provide practical legal information for lawyers and paralegals. It contains answers to questions such as:

  • Who can request records?
  • What records can be requested?
  • From whom can records be requested?
  • What information may be withheld?
  • What recourse does a requester have if his or her request is refused?  

PAIA Unpacked outlines the Act’s requirements and examines how they have been interpreted and applied by the judiciary.  It will be useful to lawyers and paralegals from government, private practice  and civil society, as well as individuals who are making and responding to requests for information under PAIA.

The guide has been endorsed by the South African Human Rights Commission with its chairperson, Mr Lawrance Mushwana saying:

"The objectives of the right of access to information to assist people to protect other human rights, promote transparency and accountability can be achieved through education and awarenessraising, as well as, through a sound understanding and interpretation of the enabling law, the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA)...the guide developed by the South African History Archive to serve as a resource for lawyers and paralegals on the scope, application and interpretation of PAIA is a useful one. With practical tools such as the interpretation of important provisions of PAIA by the courts, the guide is a comprehensive resource material that will be very useful to any legal practitioner. It is an important tool that will help users in maximising the true potential that the use of PAIA can achieve in promoting and protecting the ideals of our democracy..."

The development of this guide was supported by grants from the  Open Society Foundationsand Atlantic Philanthropies

Download PAIA Unpacked (3.2MB)

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This guide can be downloaded free of charged by registered users on the SAHA site.
Freedom of Information Programme
PAIA Workshop Guide
The PAIA Workshop Guide is a comprehensive training manual for people wanting to learn how to use PAIA.
PAIA resource kit
The PAIA Resource Kit provides step by step instructions on how to complete the forms required to submit a PAIA request.
SAHA: Research Articles and Presentations