New laws proposed for South Africa – including rules around the messages you can send

The National Council of Provinces approved a number of bills at its sitting on Wednesday (1 July) – most notably the Cybercrimes Bill and the Civil Union Amendment Bill.

Originally introduced in 2017, the Cybercrimes Bill focuses on criminalising the theft and interference of data and bringing South Africa’s cyber security laws in line with the rest of the world.

The objectives of the bill are among others to:

  • Create offences and impose penalties which have a bearing on cyber crime;
  • To criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful and to provide for interim protection orders;
  • To further regulate jurisdiction in cyber crime.

“The bill further aims to regulate the powers to investigate cyber crimes, to further regulate aspects relating to mutual assistance in respect of the investigation of cyber crimes and to provide for the establishment of a 24/7 point of contact,” the NCOP said.

“The bill also impose obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cyber crimes. It also provides that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cyber security.”

Some of the online messages which are covered under the bill include:

  • 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.

Civil unions

The NCOP also agreed to the Civil Union Amendment Bill.

The aim of the Bill is to repeal section 6 of the Civil Union Act, which allows a marriage officer to inform the minister that he or she objects on the ground of conscience, religion, and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex.

It is important to note that the marriage officers referred to in the Bill are public servants employed by the Department of Home Affairs, the committee said.

The bill has proved to be somewhat contentious and the NCOP said that it received more than 325 submissions from parties both for and against the change.

“The committee also considered section 195 (1) of the Constitution which provides that public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, including in subsection (d) that services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias,” it said.

“The committee noted further that Section 197 (3) of the Constitution provides that no employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular party or cause.

“The committee agreed that the repeal of section 6 of the Civil Union Act, 2006 was important in advancing equality and upholding the constitutional rights afforded to persons entering into same-sex unions.”

Read: South Africa takes a step closer to land expropriation – but opponents say it can’t afford it, after the coronavirus

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New laws proposed for South Africa – including rules around the messages you can send