The following article is reproduced here with the kind permission of our friends at Code4SA. The original can be found here.
A new website, opengazettes.org.za, is making official government gazettes available online and searchable, so you no longer have to sift through or download heaps of publications to source legal notices, calls for comments on national and provincial matters and updates on civic issues.
The project is a collaboration between Code for South Africa, a civic-technology organisation that promotes informed decision-making, the Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII), The Indigo Trust and the African Networks of Centers for Investigative Reporting, with support from Code for Africa. The initiative aims to promote citizen access to government information and increase civic participation in government processes.
According to Parliament’s website, “Government uses [the Gazette] to publish acts and bills, regulations and notices in terms of acts, changes of names, company registrations and deregistrations, financial statements, and restitution notices, liquor license applications and transport permits. Board and legal notices are also published in the Gazette; these cover insolvencies, liquidation and estate notices.”
In a nutshell, everything the government is doing that citizens should know about.
While government gazettes have always been available somewhere, access to the information is not as easy or straightforward as it sounds, especially for citizens. This is especially worrying when the onus is on the public to “keep up to date with all legislation published in the government gazette, and ignorance is not permitted as a defense for violating a law or regulation”, according to the Official Publications Depository Manual, which hosts guidelines for setting up depositories for official publications across South Africa.
Currently, citizens can access physical copies of the gazette at Thusong Service Centres and certain libraries throughout South Africa. Digital copies of national and most provincial gazettes from 2012 onwards are available from the government’s official printers www.gpwonline.co.za. Western Cape Government Gazettes are available on their website. The Free State charges R11.70 per gazette for access to their provincial gazettes.
Considering that national and provincial copies are printed weekly, along with separate copies for liquor licenses, tender bulletins and legal notices, and urgent notices in separate copies throughout the month, it is incredibly hard to source a specific notice without being specifically pointed at it.
In addition, search functionality and access to digital copies prior to 2012 have a price tag attached as commercial providers charge for this service. Since the government gazette dates back to the Union of South Africa, this prevents the majority of South Africans from benefitting from an important record of the history of South Africa.
As the official mouthpiece of government, the government gazette is the one platform that citizens can use to make sure that Government is acting in our best interests. But we can only do this if we can access it.
Join us in building the biggest collection of freely available and searchable government gazettes. We are looking for gazettes, national and provincial, from before 2012.
If you have any government gazettes, in any format (hard copy, PDF, scan, etc), contribute them to our public collection and become a part of the #GazetteLiberation campaign. Encourage and challenge everyone you know to take part too.
The collection is freely available for anyone to use. Gazettes are available on opengazettes.org.za, individually and in bulk.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries or if you would like to contribute government gazettes.
Lenina Rassool – firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda Strydom – email@example.com