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Departments ‘blatantly refusing’ PAIA requests: Manamela

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Government departments were failing to adhere to the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela said on Monday.

“Currently, only 52% of departments are fully compliant [with] PAIA. Measures must be put in place to ensure that this legislation is implemented. PAIA implementation is not merely a tick box exercise,” said Manamela.

Manamela was speaking at the South African Human Rights Commission’s 12th annual National Information Officers Forum conference held in Pretoria on Monday.

The commission is tasked with enforcing the act which allows access to any information held by the state, and any information held by private bodies that is required for the exercise and protection of any rights.

Manamela said in most cases, requests for access to information were met by a cold shoulder from those whose job it was to provide the information.

“Government officials are often reluctant to provide information when it is requested. Requests are ignored. We have now moved from routinely [ignoring requests] to blatant refusal to comply… There is an endemic lack of compliance,” he said.

Manamela called on those responsible for the distribution of information to comply and not emulate the apartheid government that refused people access to information in order to hide human rights violations.

“Transparency is one of the core values of our constitution. The apartheid regime did not only deny access, but embarked on deliberate public disinformation.

“As this generation, we dare not repeat the mistakes of the past because access to information is fundamental [for] the realisation of all other rights,” said Manamela.

He said the act was not proposed in order to deny people access to state information. Manamela said the act was to ensure that human rights were not trampled upon and that those needing information to fight injustices have that access. News24

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