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Your rights in 67 minutes

Date Released: Wed, 31 July 2013 13:33 +0200

The Rhodes University Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) spent their 67 minutes for Nelson Mandela Day at GADRA, the Grahamstown Area Distress Relief Association, where they presented a workshop about the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

PSAM director Jay Kruuse and housing researcher within the Monitoring & Advocacy Programme, Yeukai Mukorombindo Chiweshe, spoke about the process of filling out an Access to Information form and how to follow up the application once it has been submitted.

Chiweshe said the Act supports South Africans' constitutional right to access information for the progressive realisation of rights. “PSAM believes that the use of this Act empowers citizens to effectively engage with the state in terms of obtaining justifications and explanations for the use of public resources and the performance of public officials and service providers.”

She said the Act is used to gain information held by a public or private body; to know reasons for a certain decision made by a public body; to know what public money has been allocated to a project and how it is being spent; to know how the government addresses particular problems; to prevent corruption by actively and constantly demanding accountability from public officials; to enhance the work of NGOs and civil society; and to use when one suspects wrongdoing, for example an awarding of a tender.

GADRA Education is a Grahamstown-based public-benefit organisation (PBO) which provides key education services and advocates for transformation of the school education system. About 20 representatives from five NGOs attended the workshop. The NGOs represented were GADRA, FAMSA, Association of the Physically Disabled, Lebone Centre and St Mary’s Development and Care Centre.

Chiweshe said those who attended the workshop “were very excited about how powerful the Act is and how useful it will be for the work that they do”. The attendees suggested that there be annual PAIA workshops to inform as many people as possible about the Act.

Said Chiweshe, “As PSAM we have agreed to offer this workshop annually as part of the Trading Live Mandela Day.”

PSAM urge NGOs in Grahamstown to visit their offices at any time should they need assistance with the Act.

“We also encouraged them to attend our annual fundamentals course of social accountability monitoring for further training in holding government accountable,” said Chiweshe.

PSAM Jay

PSAM director Jay Kruuse speaks to representatives from five NGOs in Grahamstown about PAIA, the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

PSAM Paia

Housing researcher within the Monitoring & Advocacy Programme, Yeukai Mukorombindo Chiweshe, listens to a member of the audience.

Top photograph: Some musical entertainment during the workshop on PAIA at Gadra.

Words by Annetjie van Wynegaard

Photographs by Roger Domingo

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