Commencement of certain sections of the Protection of Personal Information Act

July 1st, 2020

On 22 June President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the commencement of certain sections of the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (POPIA), which aims to –

  • promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies;
  • introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information;
  • provide for the establishment of the Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of POPIA and the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA);
  • provide for the issuing of codes of conduct;
  • provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making;
  • regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of South Africa; and
  • provide for matters connected therewith.

According to the statement by the Presidency, POPIA gives effect to s 14 of the Constitution, which provides that ‘everyone has the right to privacy’. Certain sections of POPIA have been in operation since April 2014, some of which include those relating to the establishment of the Information Regulator. The members of the Information Regulator took office on 1 December 2016. Many of the remaining provisions of POPIA could only be put into operation at a later stage as the provisions required the Information Regulator to first assume its powers, functions and duties in terms of POPIA. Sections 2 to 38; ss 55 to 109; s 111; and s 114(1), (2) and (3) will commence on 1 July. Sections 110 and 114(4), which deal with the transfer of the enforcement of PAIA from the South African Human Rights Commission to the Information Regulator will come into effect on 30 June 2021.

The commencement of these sections of POPIA will provide data subjects with a remedy in instances when their personal information is abused. In a statement, the Information Regulator has noted that POPIA gives it effective enforcement powers for non-compliance. These powers include, the issuing of an administrative fine of up to R 10 million and the institution of a civil action by the Information Regulator on behalf of a data subject. In addition, the contravention of certain sections of POPIA attracts a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or both a fine and imprisonment. Since POPIA grants public and private bodies a grace period of one year (until 1 July 2021) to comply with POPIA, the Information Regulator has requested that public and private bodies use this period to comply.

The sections, which will commence on 1 July, pertain, inter alia, to –

  • the conditions for the lawful processing of personal information;
  • the regulation of the processing of special personal information;
  • codes of conduct issued by the Information Regulator;
  • procedures for dealing with complaints;
  • provisions regulating direct marketing by means of unsolicited electronic communication; and
  • general enforcement of POPIA.

Legal practitioners are privy to sensitive information, the importance of safeguarding that information goes without saying. Legal practitioners are advised to implement mechanisms that ensure lawful processing of personal information.


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This article was first published in De Rebus in 2020 (July) DR 3.