Glossary terms

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The National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of 1996), as amended.


The process of determining the value and thus the final disposal of records and the decision regarding the preservation requirements of each record or series of records

Archival value:

Those values, administrative, fiscal, legal, evidential and/or informational, which justify the indefinite or permanent retention of records


Records in the custody of an archives repository.

Archives repository:

The building in which records with archival value are preserved permanently.

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Case files:

The most detailed (or specific) division in a file plan that creates a separate file for each person, place, institution or item, etc.

Closed volume:

1) Volumes of records in a current paper-based file plan that have reached a thickness of 3 cm or have become full, after which a new volume has been opened.

2) In an electronic system a folder which was segmented into parts.

Correspondence system:

A set of paper-based and electronic communications and associated documents, sent, received, generated, processed and stored during the conduct of business.

Current records:

Records that form part of a records classification system still in use.


The control of records based upon their physical possession.

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The action of either destroying/deleting a record or transferring it into archival custody.

Disposal authority:

A written authority issued by the National Archivist specifying which records should be transferred into archival custody or specifying which records should be destroyed/deleted or otherwise disposed of.

Disposal authority number:

A unique number identifying each disposal authority issued to a specific office.

Disposal instruction:

The specific instruction regarding disposal allocated to each record e.g. D for delete/destroy and A for transferring into archival custody.

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Electronic Document Management System:

A system that provides the ability to capture, describe and categorize, store and retrieve, share and reuse electronic documents regardless of specific format.

Electronic records:

Information which is generated electronically and stored by means of computer technology.

Electronic Records Management System:

A (normally out-of –the –box) electronic system that contains business rules to manage records to ensure that they are authentic and reliable. A.k.a Electronic Records Management Applications.

Electronic records system:

This is the collective noun for all components of an electronic information system, namely: electronic media as well as all connected items such as source documents, output information, software applications, programmes and meta data (background and technical information i.r.o. the information stored electronically) and in hard copy. All these components are defined as records by the Act. They must therefore, be dealt with in accordance with the Act's provisions.

Ephemeral records:

See non-archival records.

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See folder.

File plan:

A pre-determined classification plan by which records are filed and/or electronically indexed to facilitate efficient retrieval and disposal of records.

The National Archivist must approve all file plans before governmental bodies implement them.

Detailed design and implementation guidelines for file plans are contained in the National Archives and Records Service's publication Directive R1: Background and compiling file plans. Detailed information regarding the application and maintenance of paper-based filing systems is contained in the document Directive R2: Application and maintenance of filing systems

Guidelines regarding the compilation of file plans is available in Standardizing main series for support functions of governmental bodies. Prototype file plans for local authorities, Ministries and MEC'S as well Committees and Commissions of Enquiry also exist and should be used by governmental bodies as a framework when compiling file plans for paper-based and electronic records.

File reference:

A unique identifier for a file. This can be a numerical, alphanumerical or alphabetical identifier. It is used to link a record to its specific subject file and subject grouping.

Filing system:

The collective noun for a storage system (like files, boxes, shelves or electronic applications and storage systems) in which records are stored in a systematic manner according to a file plan.


1) An organised arrangement of records on the same subject accumulated in chronological order within the same cover/container.

2) The physical action of allocating file reference numbers to records and placing them inside the cover/container.

Functional subject file plan:

A pre-determined logical, systematic and hierarchical structure based on business’ functions that are then used to determine subject groups and subjects according to which records are filed and/or electronically indexed. Its purpose is to

a) facilitate efficient retrieval and disposal of records; and

b) to link the records back to the functions, activities and transactions that generated them.

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General Disposal Authority:

Disposal authorities issued on "common" or "standard" records used by more than one office e.g. financial records, human resources case files etc.

Governmental body:

Any legislative, executive, judicial or administrative organ of state (including a statutory body) at the national level of government and until provincial archival legislation takes effect also all provincial administrations and local authorities.

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Head of a governmental body:

The chief executive officer of a governmental body or the person who is acting as such.

Integrated Document and Records Management System:

A system that supports the medium to long term information needs of a governmental body. It provides functionality over and above that of an electronic document management system to preserve the security, authenticity and integrity of records to enable the permanent preservation of records. Its primary management functions are –

Non-archival records:

Records with a short-lived interest or usefulness.

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Public record:

A record created or received by a governmental body in pursuance of its activities, regardless of form or medium.


  1. Recorded information regardless of form or medium.
  2. Evidence of a transaction, preserved for the evidential information it contains.

Anything on which sounds or images or both are fixed or from which sounds or images or both are capable of being reproduced, regardless of form.

Record classification system:

A plan for the systematic identification and arrangement of business activities and/or records into categories according to logically structured conventions, methods and procedural rules represented in the classification system. The records classification systems prescribed by the National Archives and Records Service are filing system for correspondence systems and the schedule for records other than correspondence systems.

Record keeping  

Making and maintaining complete, accurate and reliable evidence of official business in the form of recorded information.

 Record keeping system:

A collection of policies procedures and systems, which capture information according to a records classification system, manage, store and provide access to records and their context over time. A.k.a. record system.

Records Management Policy Manual Adobe Acrobat Reader:

Policy guidelines and procedures issued in terms of section 13(4) of the Act.

Records other than correspondence systems:

Records that do not form part of a correspondence file, or a case file e.g. registers, maps, plans, electronic records, audio-visual records, etc.

Record system:

A collection of policies procedures and systems, which capture information according to a records classification system, manage, store and provide access to records and their context over time. A.k.a. recordkeeping system.

Register of disposal authorities:

The register of disposal authorities records exactly what disposal authorities were issued on which records and how long they should be kept.


A central location where a governmental body stores its active files.


The National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Regulations, 2002, Regulation R158 published in the Government Gazette No. 24085 of 20 Nov. 2002.

Retention period:
  1. The length of time that records should be retained in offices before they are either transferred into archival custody or destroyed/deleted. As far as non-archival records are concerned the head of the office decides on the retention periods in accordance with the administrative use of the records and the legal obligations the records need to fulfill. In the case of archival records the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act, 1996 as amended, determines that such records must normally be kept for twenty years after the end of the year in which they were created, before they are transferred into archival custody.
  2. In an electronic document management system, the length of time a record is kept online before it is moved to near-line or off-line storage in a hierarchical storage management system.

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Schedule for records other than correspondence systems:

A control mechanism for records other than correspondence files (other records), which contains a description and the disposal instructions and retention periods of all other records. The is to be used for the management of all records other than correspondence systems. Records other than correspondence systems include archival material such as registers, index cards, photographs, computer printouts, minutes of the council, etc., which for practical considerations are not filed on the correspondence files of the filing system. It consists of the following parts:


Records that have been issued with a written disposal authority and are due for disposal on a specific date.

System technical manual:

A manual containing information regarding the hardware, software and network elements that comprise the system and how they interact. Details of all changes to a system should also be documented as well as details of new releases that were implemented.

System procedures manual:

A manual containing all procedures relating to the operation and use of the electronic system, including input to, operation of and output from the system. A system procedures manual would contain detailed procedures regarding -

A systems procedures manual should be updated when new releases force new procedures.

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Terminated records:

Records which were created or received by a governmental body and which were managed by a records classification system no longer in use.

Transitory records:

Transitory records are those records created by officials but not required by the governmental bodies for which they work to control, support or document the delivery of services, or to carry out operations, to make decisions, or to give account of the activities of government. Such records are needed by officials for only a limited time to facilitate the completion of routine actions or to prepare a subsequent record required by a governmental body for the above-mentioned reasons.

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Records that have not yet been issued with a written disposal authority and that can thus not be disposed of.

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Vital/essential records:

  1. Records that protect the enduring civil, legal, financial, property and other rights of the citizens of a country;

  2. Records that are needed to continue operational responsibilities under disaster conditions;

  3. Records that protect the legal and financial rights of the Government.


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