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NPOs launch SA’s first automated expungement app


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NPOs launch SA’s first automated expungement app

Freedoms SA chairperson Wayne Jean-Pierre discusses the ClearMe app (Camera & editing: Shadwyn Dickinson)

18th May 2023

By: Thabi Madiba
Creamer Media Senior Research Assistant and Reporter


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Not-for-profit organisations, Freedoms South Africa and ACT Ubumbano on Thursday launched the country’s first automated expungement guide, the ClearMe app, to help people clear criminal records.

The app aims to ensure that people who are eligible for expungement can clear their records and exercise their rights to equality, work and travel.


Up until 2009, if an individual in South Africa had a criminal record, no matter how small the infringement, they would always be regarded as a criminal.

Freedoms SA chairperson Wayne Jean-Pierre explains that a criminal record can make it impossible to get employed or travel, with many thousands of people living in the shadow of convictions for minor offences, often committed when they were children or under apartheid legislation.


He notes that a criminal record is not supposed to last forever and that the expungement of criminal records is allowed for certain offences, after a fixed period of time.

“The expungement process is supposed to be free, but it is difficult to navigate and open to exploitation. This prevents people who could make a positive contribution to society and the economy from exercising their basic rights to equality, dignity and privacy. It has harmful consequences for individuals, their families and communities,” he notes.

The ClearMe app can also be used to help individuals find out if they have a criminal record.

He went on to explain that the process is free, except for the cost of a police clearance certificate.

By law in South Africa, a clearance certificate is issued by the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service on a date ten years after the conviction and sentence.

“What we are seeing today is an app that has been developed with almost twelve years of understanding the system. It is not just the application, it is understanding how to interpret what those different documents [criminal records] say, how do we complete those documents and more importantly how do we navigate all the challenges that we faced when it comes to dealing with the records sentences and the Department of Justice,” he says.

All of that information is correlated into the app making it easy for ordinary individuals to log on and complete the information required.

“… it is an app that allows all of us to be activists. It will allow all of us, never mind from which space [we come from] to be able to add value to communities. It is not just to assist people that are coming in conflict with the law, [or those that] have the record, it is about waking the community, waking up individuals to the realisation that there can be more to their lives than just sitting back, [they can] become agents of change, agents who can impact communities in a positive way,” Jean-Pierre says.

ACT Ubumbano director Ashley Green-Thompson explains that advocacy is needed to make the process of clearing criminal records fair and efficient.

ClearMe aims to prevent unfair discrimination against people because of failures of the police, criminal justice system and exploitation by private service providers.

The app also wants to sensitise the public, the police, the criminal justice officials, and private sector about expungement.

To date FSA has helped thousands of people apply to have their criminal records removed.


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