South Africa: Ready or not - POPIA is here

01 July 2021 Nadine Mather, Senior Associate at Bowmans

Today marks the end of the 12-month grace period afforded to organisations to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) by 1 July 2021.

This means that, with effect from today, the majority of the substantive provisions of POPIA can now be enforced by the Information Regulator.

This newsflash provides answers to frequently asked questions.

Has the 12-month grace period not been extended?

There has been much confusion and misinformation regarding the effective date of the enforcement of POPIA. This has been caused by the suspension of section 58(2) of POPIA, the enforcement of which has been postponed until 1 February 2022.

Section 58(2) of POPIA regulates the suspension of processing activities that have been notified to the Information Regulator for prior authorisation in accordance with section 58(1).

The remaining provisions of POPIA have, however, not been suspended. Accordingly, the majority of the provisions of POPIA have now become enforceable.

What if I have not yet registered the organisation’s information officer?

Due to technical difficulties with the registration portal and concerns raised by responsible parties regarding the registration of information officers, the Information Regulator has recently announced that there will be no deadline for the registration of information officers and deputy information officers.

Accordingly, responsible parties will not be held liable for a failure to register their information officers by 30 June 2021. We would, however, encourage organisations to register their information officers on the online portal as soon as they are able to in order to ensure compliance with POPIA going forward.

Do I still need to have a manual?

Up until 30 June 2021, smaller private bodies (i.e. private bodies with less than 50 employees or having an annual turnover less than the applicable threshold amount) were exempt from having to develop manuals in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Mr Ronald Lamola, has extended the current exemption by a further six months to 31 December 2021.

The purpose of the extension is to afford private bodies that are currently exempt adequate time to develop their manuals. The Information Regulator has recently indicated, however, that this is the final exemption that will be granted and with effect from 1 January 2022, all public and private bodies must have a manual in place. These manuals should comply with the amended provisions of PAIA.


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