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:
The administration is made up of:
Any decision the administration takes that affects people's rights is an administrative action.
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
The PAJA says administrators must:
Before taking a decision, administrators must:
After taking a decision, administrators must give anyone whose rights have been affected:
Although they don't have to, in some cases administrators can also:
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.
You can now expect to be:
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.
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.
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.
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.
You must be given reasons within 90 days of the administrator receiving the request.
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.
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:
Taking a matter on review is expensive. Luckily, there are cheaper ways of finding assistance.
Use the internal appeal, if there is one. Usually, this is free.
See what you can do at the local level...
- 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
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.