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

 ·9 Mar 2018

Since being elected into office some three weeks ago, it appears that there has been a flurry of new legislation drafted and promulgated under president Cyril Ramaphosa.

While there can be no doubt that Ramaphosa has certainly cleaned house and got government back on track in many respects, given the long time and effort that goes into creating and passing new laws in South Africa, it is much more likely that this is a case of avoiding ‘fifth term crunch’ syndrome.

According to Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG), there were 41 bills in Parliament at the end of January 2018, and it is anticipated that a number of them will be finalised in this first term.

“Many departments have a backlog of delayed draft legislation that needs to be introduced into Parliament to avoid the end-of-the-fifth-term crunch, so lawmakers will be doing a lot of heavy legislative lifting this year,” it said.

“Parliament has built its capacity to initiate and develop legislation. Committee Bills are no longer a rarity. It’s become a trend and we can expect to see more of this activism in 2018.

“At the same time, more private legislation tabled by Members of Parliament is no longer a possibility but is expected,” it said.

Below are five of the most important pieces of legislation that BusinessTech has covered over the last week:

Smoking laws

New proposals for changes to South Africa’s smoking laws will be presented by the end of March, according to department of health director-general, Precious Matsoso.

Health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi previously outlined the expected changes to the laws when he presented the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act in 2017, which he said would be submitted to cabinet for approval early in 2018.

The regulations plan to ban smoking in all public spaces, remove branding from cigarettes packs and control electronic cigarettes.

The proposals, first mooted in 2015, have garnered significant public interest as they propose a number of strict new smoking laws, including:

  • A zero-tolerance policy on in-door smoking in public places (including the removal of designated smoking areas in restaurants);
  • A ban on outdoor smoking in public places;
  • When smoking outside, smokers must be at least 10 metres away from public entrances;
  • The removal of all signage on cigarette packaging aside from the brand name and warning stickers;
  • Cigarettes may no longer be publicly displayed by retailers.

Hate speech laws

On Wednesday (7 March), Arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa confirmed that the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill will soon be tabled.

One of the biggest controversies surrounding the bill is the large number of characteristics which are now covered under ‘hate speech’, leading to fears that even petty insults could lead to trouble with the law.

“The Constitution allows for the protection of only four specified characteristics – race, ethnicity, religion, gender – but the bill protects seventeen characteristics, including ‘culture’, ‘belief’, ‘occupation’, and ‘gender identity’,” the the Free Market Foundation (FMF) said in an analysis.

‘Internet censorship’ laws

The National Assembly officially passed the Films and Publications Amendment Bill on Tuesday (6 March).

The bill had previously come under scrutiny from members of industry and the public, over concerns that it would be used as a means of censorship for online content.

This includes specific instances where the FPB will be allowed to regulate user-generated content (such as YouTube videos, pictures, and music), and possibly even block non-compliant online distributors at an ISP level.

New drinking laws

Following a long consultation period, the Liquor Amendment Bill is now in front of cabinet, and is expected to be passed through parliament within the coming weeks.

Originally met with positivity, the bill has come under fire over the past week after it emerged that the department of health had stepped in to make a number of last minute adjustments – including a total ban on all alcohol advertising.

Other changes under the new bill include:

  • The bill proposes banning the supply of liquor and methylated spirits to persons under the age of 21 – up from 18 currently. This includes any and all alcoholic advertisements which are aimed at people under the age of 21.
  • The new bill calls for the prohibition of  the manufacturing, distribution or retail sale of liquor in both rural and urban communities, on any location that is less than 500 metres away from schools, place of worship, recreational facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas, public institutions and other like amenities.
  • Manufacturers and suppliers of alcohol to illegal or unlicensed outlets will effectively be liable to all damages caused by their unlawful distribution.

‘Congestion Tax’

On Monday (5 March), the department of transport released a new ‘draft roads policy‘ which aims to fundamentally improve South Africa’s road systems – and mentions how funds can be raised to do so.

“New revenue streams that are being considered include an increase in both the fuel levy and vehicle license fees, tolling and other innovative funding measures,” the policy said.

“Policy proposals include a focus on improving the efficiencies in budget expenditure in the roads sector, and government support for the application of the user-pay principle (for example tolling, congestion charges, weight over distance charging, cross border levies etc.”

Read: Trouble as state companies flat out ignore budget rules and restrictions

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