4 major new laws that every South African needs to know about

A number of pieces of legislation will be considered by president Cyril Ramaphosa’s new administration, according to minister of Justice and Correctional Service, Ronald Lamola, who was presenting to the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Wednesday (3 July).

Lamola said that these bills include the upcoming Cybercrime Bill, which is currently awaiting deliberation by the National Council of Provinces, and the new Hate Speech Bill which is currently being deliberated on by the portfolio committee for justice.

You can find a breakdown of these new bills below.


Cybercrimes Bill

The Cybercrimes Bill seeks to:

  • Create offences which have a bearing on cybercrime;
  • Criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful and to provide for interim protection orders;
  • Impose obligations to report cybercrimes;
  • Provide that the Executive may enter into agreements with foreign States to promote measures aimed at the detection, prevention, mitigation and investigation of cybercrimes amongst other matters.

While the majority of the Bill focuses on criminalising the theft and interference of data, it has also introduced new laws surrounding any ‘malicious’ electronic communication.

Concerns have previously been raised about the ‘vagueness’ of these messaging rules, especially because of the steep consequences attached to them.

Notably, any person who contravenes one of the following provisions is liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years, or to both a fine and imprisonment.

  • A message which incites damage to property or violence;
  • A message which threatens persons with damage to property or violence;
  • A message which unlawfully contains an intimate image.

Child Justice Amendment Bill

The primary objective of the new bill is to increase the minimum age of criminal capacity of children from 10 years to 12 years – and to remove the requirement to prove criminal capacity for purposes of diversion and preliminary inquiries.

A diversion program is a form of sentence in which the criminal offender joins a rehabilitation program, which will help remedy the behaviour leading to the original arrest and avoid conviction and a criminal record.


State Liability Amendment Bill

A surge in medico-legal claims has placed an increasing strain on the budgets of provincial hospitals.

The State Liability Amendment Bill aims to both limit and structure the payment of damages where a patient has been a victim at a state hospital.

Instead of claiming for damages under the ‘once and for all’ rule, patients will instead receive periodic payments, with a  threshold of R1 million placed on claims.


The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

Under the new law, hate speech will be defined as a clear intention to be harmful or to incite harm, or promote or propagate hatred on the basis of these characteristics:

  • Age;
  • Albinism;
  • Birth;
  • Colour;
  • Culture;
  • Disability;
  • Ethnic or social origin;
  • Gender or gender identity;
  • HIV status;
  • Language;
  • Nationality;
  • Migrant or refugee status;
  • Race;
  • Religion;
  • Sex (which includes intersex or sexual orientation).

The bill also includes a section of scenarios where the hate speech rules will not apply. The section states that the offence of hate speech does not apply in respect, terms of the above characteristics, if it is done in good faith in the course of engagement in:

  • Any bona fide artistic creativity, performance or other form of expression, to the extent that such creativity, performance or expression does not advocate hatred that constitutes incitement to cause harm;
  • Any academic or scientific inquiry;
  • Fair and accurate reporting or commentary in the public interest or in the publication of any information, commentary, advertisement or notice, in accordance with section 16(1) of the Constitution;
  • The bona fide interpretation and proselytising or espousing of any religious tenet, belief, teaching, doctrine or writings, to the extent that such interpretation and proselytisation does not advocate hatred that constitutes incitement to cause harm.

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4 major new laws that every South African needs to know about