The law is a maze..

by Rita Felgate (Adv.)

I needed to look up something on the National Archieves online records this week, so started reading relevant online help files in order to see how their online database system worked.

One of their webpages contained a link to the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act, No. 43 of 1996 [HERE], with a link to that Act as last amended by Act 36 of 2001.

My records, however, reflect that Act 43 of 1996 was last amended by Act 30 of 2007.

This discrepancy of course immediately derailed my explore of the National Archives databases so that I could ascertain whether or not my records of the amendments to Act 43 of 1996 were right, or wrong.

I found that, indeed, the last amendment of Act 43 of 1996 was by Act 30 of 2007.

So, is the correct version of Act 43 of 1996 being used in relation to the National Archives by the powers that be? Answering this question is important, considering that the difference between the two amended versions of Act 43 of 1996 lies in its s4(1) requirements regarding the consultation around, basis for, and legislation relevant to and process of appointing the national archivist, the grade at which appointed, and the role and direction given to the national archivist.

If the wrong version of Act 43 of 1996 is being used, then the national archivist may not have been properly appointed and role players may not have not been acting properly in terms of the Act. The legal consequences of this could well flow like blood down the street, to the joy of some and grief of others.

The practical consequences to us? Given the central importance of a national archivist to the whole national archiving effort, I’ll be taking the National Archives and everything about it with a pinch of salt until I have ventured into the maze of facts that will indicate to us whether the various national archivists have, or have not, been properly appointed and properly directed, under the correct version of the Act.

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