24 May 2011

Strategic PAIA requests on CODESA

15 May 2011 marked the anniversary of the commencement of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) 2. The Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) marked this occasion by using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to mine the national archives for material related to the work of CODESA.

CODESA consisted of 92 organisations that gathered to discuss how a transition to democracy could be negotiated in South Africa. As such, various working groups were established to concentrate on key areas central to the creation of the democracy, namely:
• The new constitution
• The setting up of the interim government
• The future of the homelands
• Time period for the implementation of the changes
• The electoral system

However, unsurprisingly given the tenuous state of the nation at the time and the substantially different motives of a number of the organisations included, the CODESA process was not without controversy. For a more detailed outline of the CODESA process, click here.

In 2001, SAHA launched FOIP with the aim of creating awareness of, compliance with and use of PAIA by submitting requests for access to information. Since its inception, the programme has built up a comprehensive collection of released materials. Through a strategic use of PAIA, FOIP is able to ‘mine the archives' of government and private bodies and increase the number of relevant works available for access to the public through SAHA's archives.

In furtherance of this, and in commemoration of the CODESA anniversary and acknowledgement of the historical significance of the work of that body, this month FOIP made two PAIA requests to the National Archives to begin to explore the records available from the CODESA negotiations.

The first request is for a number of records relating to the more significant controversial incidences that marred the process. This includes information on the Boipatong Massacre and the response of CODESA to Mangosuthu Buthelezi's public opposition to the process.

The second request is for any materials relating to discussions on the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC). The SABC is marred by controversy even today and a historical perspective of concerns raised at the time of transition may give critics a new lens through which to consider current issues.

Details of the materials collected by FOIP through PAIA requests are available here. If FOIP is successful in its application to the National Archives for information on CODESA, those records will be added to the FOIP collection and availalbe to the public.