Information Regulator to ensure protection of personal information

April 1st, 2017

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Chairperson of the Information Regulator, advocate Pansy Tlakula, said the organisation was established to ensure that personal information is protected and that free flow of information is promoted. In a press release, Ms Tlakula said that the organisation was not the ‘POPI Regulator’ as some had referred to it.

Ms Tlakula said the mission of the Information Regulator was to ensure that both the constitutionally guaranteed right to access information and the right to privacy are equally protected and enjoyed and that failure to do so might result in one part of the organisation’s mandate being given more prominence than the other.

Ms Tlakula said the regulator consists of five members, but said it was worth noting that three members are women and that the chairperson is also a woman. ‘That it is something that must never be taken for granted,’ she added. Ms Tlakula pointed out that the organisation is currently operating from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development offices in Pretoria and the organisation has taken a strategic decision to use the expertise that they have to do the ground work required to establish the regulator and use consultants where necessary.

Ms Tlakula said this was going to give the office of the regulator an opportunity to learn every aspect of Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013 (POPIA), which by all accounts, is a complex piece of legislation. The first thing the organisation did when it started operating, was to establish the governance structure of the regulator. Ms Tlakula noted that the committee may consist of the members of the regulator or other members which the regulator may appoint. ‘Section 49 of POPIA mandates the regulator to establish one or more committees for the proper performance of its functions,’ she added.

Ms Tlakula said that the organisation took into consideration the experience and expertise of members to designate the chairperson of each committee, and the following committees were established –

  • policy and governance committee, chaired by the chairperson of the regulator, Ms Tlakula;
  • enforcement committee, chaired by attorney Sizwe Snail ka Mtuze as member representing the regulator;
  • legal and compliance committee chaired by advocate Lebogang Stroom-Nzama;
  • complaints and dispute resolution committee, chaired by professor Tana Pistorius;
  • finance risk and ITC governance committee, chaired by advocate Collen Weapond;
  • outreach and research committee, chaired by Mr Snail ka Mtuze; and
  • the human resource committee, chaired by Mr Weapond.

Ms Tlakula said that only s 39 – 54, s 112 and s 113 of POPIA have come into operation and that the remaining sections will only come into operation once the regulator is fully operational. She said that when the regulator’s office took operation in December 2016, there was a brief meeting with officials of the department of justice who were responsible for drafting POPIA. Ms Tlakula said the officials informed the regulator that it will only be up and running in two years’ time. Ms Tlakula said her office is committed to shortening the operations of the regulator.

‘We decided to use our collective expertise and experience to produce the zero draft of the Regulations, which will be submitted to the [Office of the Chief State Law Adviser] for refinement and finalisation before we begin with the public consultation process,’ Ms Tlakula said. She added that if all goes according to plan, her office intends to table the regulations in Parliament in compliance with s 113(5)(a) before the end of the year.

Ms Tlakula noted that s 114(4) of POPIA requires the regulator to take over function of enforcing Promotion of Access Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA) from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). She said the legal process of doing so is regulated by the subsection read with s 110 of POPIA. ‘We have already held the first meeting with the SAHRC on the interpretation of the relevant PAIA and POPIA and subsequent meeting will be held in March this year,’ she said.

Ms Tlakula said they had agreed with the SAHRC to enter into a memorandum of understanding to put the relevant sections of the Act to work. She pointed out that the office of the regulator was planning to organise sector specific consultation workshops throughout the country in the near future.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (April) DR 5.

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