Many aspects of our daily lives involve laws: registration of births and deaths, marriage, divorce, writing of wills, employing and firing employees, living in a sectional title home, paying income tax, and so on. For the man in the street access to up-to-date versions of South African legislation will henceforth be free of charge. This is thanks to the joint venture between the University of Pretoria Law Library and the Southern African Legal Information Institute (SAFLII) which was launched on Tuesday 26 November 2013 by Justice Edwin Cameron of the Constitutional Court.
The project was initiated and is managed by Shirley Gilmore, Head Librarian at the Oliver R Tambo Law Library at the University of Pretoria. The project employs two full-time and one half-day people, who produce consolidated versions from original enactments and their various amendment Acts and regulations. The database includes historical versions of the Acts and the Regulations. This implies that one can look at the legislation at a particular point in time. Although it is still a work in progress a fair amount of the most important Acts are already available in consolidated form (as of date this number stands at 92 Acts).
Through this initiative, South Africa will become the second country on the African continent to have legislation available for free access on-line. (The Government of Kenya has already produced free online legislation and offers this via the Kenya Law Reports online portal.)
The Dean of the Faculty of Law at the university, Prof André Boraine, feels that this project aims to make statutory law accessible to both the local and international user audience. “In spite of the fact that it will be a daunting task, the end result will be of great benefit to our country and everyone who needs access to a variety of statutory measures.”
Initial seed funds were provided by the University of Pretoria Library Services and then further, more substantial seed funding was obtained from the Rhodes Trust, through monies granted to SAFLII for the legislation consolidation project. The Law Library and SAFLII are hoping to solicit sufficient additional support from both domestic and international sources to continue with the project into the future.
The collection, which is to be built up over the next years will be available for free access on-line through both the SAFLII website www.saflii.org and a new domain registered by the University, namely www.lawsofsouthafrica.up.ac.za.