3 major proposed laws that you need to know about this week

MPs in the National Assembly are only due to return to parliament on 8 October 2018.

This means that a number of issues needed to be addressed before the break – including the release of crime statistics, a presidential Q&A session and the passing of a number of major pieces of legislation.

BusinessTech looked at three of the biggest bills, laws and regulations discussed this week, below.

National Credit Amendment Bill

The National Assembly passed the National Credit Amendment Bill during its plenary sitting on Wednesday (12 September).

The bill aims to provide for capped debt intervention to promote a change in the borrowing and spending habits of an over-indebted South African society. The Bill will provide relief to over-indebted South Africans who have no other effective or efficient options to extricate themselves from over-indebtedness.

The bill further provides for mandatory credit life insurance on all credit agreements for longer than six months but no more than R50,000 in value to prevent lower income groups from falling into over-indebtedness due to changes in their financial circumstances.

The bill also aims to further limit the wide-spread abuse of consumers by unscrupulous lenders and to allow for simpler and more rigorous enforcement of the Act by, among others, providing for criminal prosecution of persons who contravene the Act.

The bill will be submitted to the National Council of Provinces for consideration and concurrence.

The major changes include:

  • There will now be a long-term intervention, similar to debt review, which will be administered and processed by the National Credit Regulator. This process will be free for the targeted group and the order will be issued by the National Consumer Tribunal.
  • There is a short-term intervention that allows for the extinguishing of debt for those consumers who are either unable to pay their debts at all or to repay all the debt within 60 months. This intervention will be available for four years after the implementation of the bill. To qualify, a consumer must not have more than R50,000 unsecured debt, and earn no more than R7,500.
  • The bill also gives additional powers to Magistrate Courts to lower interest rates based on a debt counsellor’s recommendation on behalf of a debt review applicant. In issuing regulations, the minister must consider the industry’s existing voluntary Task Team Agreement, especially the differentiation between secured and unsecured loans and the principle of incrementally and proportionally reducing interest rates, fees and other charges.

Indigenous knowledge bill 

Also on Wednesday (12 September), the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the Protection and Promotion of Indigenous Knowledge Bill.

The bill provides for, among other things, the establishment and functions of the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office, and management of the rights of indigenous communities.

The bill further provides for the establishment and functions of the Advisory Panel on indigenous knowledge, access and conditions of access to the knowledge of indigenous communities.

Furthermore, the bill calls for the establishment of a register of indigenous knowledge, accreditation of assessors and certification of indigenous knowledge practitioners, as well as facilitation and coordination of indigenous knowledge-based innovations.

According to Legalbrief analyst Pam Saxby,  the bill is expected to go some way towards preventing the unauthorised use and misappropriation of knowledge developed over time by indigenous communities – placing them at the centre of the commercialisation process.

The bill is now awaiting presidential assent before being passed into law.

Expansion of whistle-blowers list 

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development has expanded the list of institutions which whistle-blowers may turn when reporting an impropriety.

In a gazette on Friday (14 September), the department noted that whistleblowing is recognised as an effective mechanism for detecting discrimination, corruption, and fraud.

Whistleblowers, however, often face huge risks and make enormous sacrifices when they blow the whistle about irregularities in the workplace, it said.

It added that it is important to note that it is not only financial irregularities that can be reported. The Act allows protected disclosures to be made on the following:

  • That a criminal offence has been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed.
  • That a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail, to comply with any legal obligation.
  • That a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.
  • That the health or safety of an individual has been, is being or likely to be endangered.
  • That the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged.
  • Unfair discrimination as contemplated in Chapter II of the Employment Equity Act, 1998 or the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000.
  • That any matter referred to above has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.

You can find a complete list of the institutions and their contact details here.

Read: New High Court ruling does away with ‘R100 house auctions’

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3 major proposed laws that you need to know about this week