ROL Data-set: Gazettes


Window into the Rule of Law

The State’s official Gazettes are enormously important to establishing whether or not a number of primary principles of the Rule of Law are being complied with. For example, they publish original legislation and subordinate legislation and so are crucial to the requirement that law be published, which validates the presumption that we know the law. Another example, is that they publish information on actions taken by State actors in terms of that legislation,  allowing anyone to determine whether the executive power is being exercised within the limits of that power under legislation.

Therefore, the Gazettes are in many ways the most obvious window into what the law is, whether the actions of State and related entities are within the scope of their powers, what is expected of potential transgressors in terms of those, and whether these and others are in compliance with basic principles of the Rule of Law.

The strangest thing, however

Despite the core importance of Government Gazettes to understanding whether basic principles of the Rule of Law are being complied with or not, the Gazettes are generally not easily available, and their content is obscured by a failure to structure and organise that content so that their content can be comprehended. Outlets for the physical Gazettes are centralised in large towns and cities, unavailable to those outside these areas. Electronic copies on official websites are obscure, their text often unsearchable. Commercial publishers of the same are expensive. The content of the Gazettes is unordered beyond a few subject categories. Gazette indexes don’t order notices in terms of legislation they are made under. Notices are non-standard format. The information they contain is structured differently one author to another. Much information required of a notice to establish who the State actor is, what legislation they are acting in terms of, when and to whom the notice applies, is simply not provided. And Gazette notices are voluminous and unless the public spends a large portion of their week perusing them, they will not ever get to the point of knowing all the law.

The result?

The failure to comply, with even the modicum of effort required by for example indexing Gazette notices under the  legislation they are issued under, with reasonable, logical and rational requirements of satisfying the most basic principles of the Rule of Law in publishing Gazettes is a very direct prejudice to the establishment and operation of the Rule of Law itself.

Rule of Law Standards related to publishing

LegalB has established various Standards relating to publication of legislation and subordinate legislation, and actions and expectations of the public in relation to that legislation. Please contact LegalB for more information in this regard.

LegalB monitors the publication and content of Gazettes, the publication and content of legislation and subordinate legislation in the Gazettes, and the content of notices of general application against Rule of Law Standards it has developed relating to publication.

LegalB Legislation database and Gazette Indexes

By-products of LegalB’s ongoing audit of the publication of Gazettes, of legislation, and acts taken in terms of that legislation against relevant Rule of Law Standards, are the LegalB legislation database, and the LegalB Gazette indexes for South African.