This past week, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa signed a number of new bills into law, adding to a number of pieces of legislation that he has assented to since being sworn into office in May.
These laws cover a number of areas including traffic rules, property legislation and debt relief.
Below BusinessTech looked at some of the biggest new laws and what they mean for you.
The president signed the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill into law in August.
The amendment act is expected to fundamentally change driving behaviour in South Africa, with some of the biggest changes including:
- Failing to pay traffic fines can lead to a block on obtaining driving and vehicle licences and an administrative fee – in addition to other penalties;
- Where documents previously had to be delivered by registered mail through the post office, in terms of the amendment, authorities will now also be able to serve documents electronically and can send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS;
- A new demerit system will be introduced. Depending on the severity of the offence, 1-6 points are allocated for offences. If an infringer has more than 12 points, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation;
- The establishment of a new Appeals Tribunal which will preside over issues that are raised under the new act.
Arguably the biggest change in the laws is the demerit system which aims to make South Africa’s roads safer by coming down harder on violators.
Depending on the severity of an offence, 1-6 points are allocated. If an infringer has more than 12 points, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation.
The Electronic Deeds Registration System Act provides for the development of an electronic deeds registration system – also known as e-DRS.
The new system will enable the electronic processing, preparation and lodgement of deeds and documents by conveyancers and the Registrar of Deeds.
“It will also enable the registration of large volumes of deeds effectively; improved turnaround times for providing registered deeds and documents to clients; countrywide access to deeds registration services; enhanced accuracy of examination and registration; availability of information to the public, and security features including confidentiality, non-repudiation, integrity and availability,” said presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko.
This is expected to greatly enhance security of title and the acquisition and disposal of fixed assets.
Hate speech and ‘censorship’
The Film and Publications Amendment Bill – known as the ‘internet censorship bill’ by some of its opponents – aims to introduce a number of changes including harsher rules to protect children from disturbing and harmful content, and to regulate the online distribution of content such as films and games.
Some of the other notable changes include:
- Revenge porn: Under the bill, any person who knowingly distributes private sexual photographs and films without prior consent and with intention to cause the said individual harm shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction. This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years and/or to both a fine and imprisonment not exceeding two years. Where the individual is identified or identifiable in said photographs and films, this punishment rises to a R300,000 fine and/or imprisonment not exceeding four years;
- Hate speech: The bill states that any person who knowingly distributes in any medium, including the internet and social media any film, game or publication which amounts to propaganda for war, incites imminent violence, or advocates hate speech, shall be guilty of an offence. This includes a possible fine not exceeding R150,000 and/or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years;
- ISP requirements: If an internet access provider has knowledge that its services are being used for the hosting or distribution of child pornography, propaganda for war, incitement of imminent violence or advocating hatred based on an identifiable group characteristic it shall immediately remove this content, or be subject to a fine.
Some of the above changes have 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.
The new National Credit Amendment Act aims to provide relief to over-indebted South Africans who have no other means of extracting themselves from over-indebtedness.
Specifically, the act will allow certain applicants to have their debt suspended in part or in full for up to 24 months.
This debt may then be extinguished altogether if the financial circumstances of the applicant do not improve.
The criteria for meeting this debt write-off include:
- Where the unsecured debt is not more than R50,000;
- Where the unsecured debt was accrued through unsecured credit agreements, unsecured short term credit transactions or unsecured credit facilities only;
- Where the person earned no more than R7,500 a month over the last six months.
The act also introduces a number of new offences related to debt intervention.
The new National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act aims to prevent South African individuals from misrepresenting their qualifications by allowing for the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to establish and maintain separate registers for professional designations, misrepresented qualifications and fraudulent qualifications.
In addition to these new registers which will effectively ‘name and shame’ individuals who had been found to be holding fraudulent qualifications, the act also introduces harsh consequences for those who are caught lying about their achievements.
Under the new act, any person convicted of an offence is liable to a fine and/or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.