Assessing the Burden of Proof for Refusal of Access to Information

Khanyile judgement


This case revolves around the right of access to information as stipulated in the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000 (PAIA). The applicant, Khanyile, sought access to records that the respondents, including the Director-General Province of KwaZulu-Natal, had refused to disclose.

PAIA and Right to Access Information:

PAIA was enacted to uphold the constitutional right of access to information, ensuring transparency, accountability, and effective governance in public bodies. Requesters are entitled to access records from public bodies, provided they adhere to PAIA’s procedural requirements. Access can only be refused based on grounds outlined in Chapter 4 of PAIA.

Facts of the Case:

Khanyile, as a requester, sought access to various records, including those related to a Provincial Executive Committee meeting, forensic investigation reports into alleged misconduct, and unsuccessful job applications. The respondents, public bodies under PAIA, refused access citing different provisions of the Act.

Court’s Findings:

The central issue was whether the respondents adequately justified their refusal of access under PAIA. Acting Judge Annandale ruled that the respondents failed to discharge their burden of proof. The Judge criticized the respondents’ unsubstantiated claims, particularly regarding the inability to locate certain reports. Consequently, the Court ordered the respondents to grant Khanyile access to the records within 20 days and imposed costs on the respondents.


The case underscores the importance of thorough consideration of PAIA provisions, particularly Chapter 4, when refusing access to information. Mere refusal without substantial justification is insufficient and may result in court orders compelling disclosure. Thus, public bodies must diligently adhere to PAIA’s requirements to ensure transparency and accountability in governance.


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