PAJA

Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act 3 of 2000)

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FAQs

1. What is the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA)

The PAJA is the law passed to "give effect" to the right to just administrative action in the Bill of Rights. This says everyone has the right:

  • To fair, lawful and reasonable administrative action; and
  • To reasons for administrative action that affects them negatively.

2. What is administrative action?

The administration is made up of:

  • All government departments;
  • The police and army; and
  • Parastatals, like ESKOM, Telkom and the SABC.

Any decision the administration takes that affects people's rights is an administrative action.

EXAMPLES
When a person applies for a disability grant or old age pension, the provincial Department of Welfare must decide whether or not to award it. This decision is an administrative action. Other examples are:

  • Applying for an ID or birth certificate
  • Applying for a first time home owners subsidy
  • Applying for a work or residence permit
  • Applying for refugee or asylum seeker status

3. What does the PAJA deal with?

The PAJA says administrators must:

  • Follow fair procedures when making decisions;
  • Allow you to have your say before taking any decision that might negatively affect your rights;
  • Clearly explain the decisions they take;
  • Tell you about any internal appeals within their department. If there is no internal appeal, they must tell you that you can ask a court to review the decision; and
  • Tell you that you can ask for written reasons for the decision.

4. What are "fair procedures"?

Before taking a decision, administrators must:

  • Tell anyone whose rights will be affected what they plan to do; and
  • Allow these people enough time to reply.

After taking a decision, administrators must give anyone whose rights have been affected:

  • A clear statement of what they decided;
  • Notice of any right to review or internal appeal; and
  • Notice that they can request reasons for the decision.

Although they don't have to, in some cases administrators can also:

  • Assist people whose rights will be affected;
  • Allow them to be represented by a lawyer; and
  • Allow them to challenge any arguments or evidence that goes against them (either in writing or in person).

5. Why do I need the PAJA?

The PAJA gives you a chance to tell your side of the story before any decision is taken. Once a decision is taken, it lets you find out why the decision went against you. In this way, the PAJA makes sure you know why the administration has done what it has. It also makes sure that decisions are taken properly. Lastly, it makes sure you can challenge decisions that were not taken properly.

6. What should I expect when I apply for something?

You can now expect to be:

  • Told what decision is being planned before it is taken;
  • Allowed to tell your side of the story before a decision is made;
  • Told what the decision is and of your right to internal appeal or review;
  • Told that you have the right to request reasons;
  • Given proper written reasons for the decision; and
  • Able to challenge the decision in court.

EXAMPLE
If you apply for a disability grant, you can expect to be told, before the decision is made, that the Department is planning not to give this to you. You can then write to the Department and say why you think this decision is wrong. If you see that important information has not been taken into account, you can point this out. If the decision still goes against you, you can ask for written reasons. If you still think the decision is wrong, you can appeal to the appeal board. If you are still not successful, you can ask a court to decide on the matter.

7. When can I request reasons?

You can request reasons for any decision that negatively affects your rights. Sometimes, these reasons will be given without you having to request them. If not, you must request them within 90 days of finding out the decision.

8. How do I request reasons

Requests must:

  • Be in writing;
  • Say what decision you are requesting reasons for;
  • Say why you think the decision is wrong;
  • Include your name, postal address, email address, fax and telephone numbers; and
  • Be sent by post, fax, email or delivered by hand.

If you cannot write, ask a friend, relative or paralegal to help you. You can also ask someone at the department to write your request for you.

9. What reasons will I be given?

Administrators must tell you how they reached their decision. If you have asked questions, these must be answered. Of course, this does not mean that they have to convince you that their decision was correct.

10. When can I expect to receive reasons?

You must be given reasons within 90 days of the administrator receiving the request.

11. Can reasons be given verbally?

No, they must be in writing. But, if you are given reasons verbally and you are happy with this, then there is no problem. If you are not, you can demand reasons in writing.

12. What if I am still not satisfied?

Some departments give you an internal appeal. For example, the Department of Home Affairs has an Appeal Board. If someone applies for asylum seeker status and is refused, they can appeal to this Board.

You must use any internal appeal before taking any other action. The department must tell you how to do this and how long you have to make the appeal.

If there is no internal appeal procedure, or if you have used it and are still not satisfied, you can ask a court to review the decision. This must be done:

  • Within 6 months of any internal appeal having been decided.
  • (Where there is no internal appeal) within 6 months of finding out the decision

13. Are there any other remedies?

Taking a matter on review is expensive. Luckily, there are cheaper ways of finding assistance.

Internal Appeals
Use the internal appeal, if there is one. Usually, this is free.

See what you can do at the local level...
You could:

  • Ask a constituency office of a political party in your area for help;
  • Complain to the area or regional manager of the department concerned; or
  • Complain to your Ward Counsellor or Provincial MEC of the relevant department.

Write to the Minister or Director-General
Find out which Minister is in charge of the department and write a letter to them (or the Director-General of the department) telling them what your problem is.

NGOs, CBOs and Paralegals
There are many non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community based organisations (CBOs) and paralegals in South Africa that can help. Most will do so for free. Check in your community whether there are any you can ask for assistance.

The Public Protector
Where it looks like there has been corruption involved in the decision, you can ask the Public Protector for assistance. This is provided free of charge. Call the Public Protector, toll free, on 0800-112-040

Human Rights Advice Line

0860-120-120

A share call number for information, advice or help on human rights. Office hours, Mon - Friday.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) working in partnership with Rights Africa

Legal Aid Board and Justice Centres
If there is a Justice Centre in your area they will help you free of charge. If there is not yet a Justice Centre then ask the Legal Aid officer at the nearest Court to give you a lawyer free of charge to help you. Call the Legal Aid Board on 012-481-2700, or visit their offices at any court near you.