Government announced a number of controversial bills for South Africa, including regulations around firearms, foreign workers, and discrimination.
The draft legislation which has seen much of the focus over the last week is the Firearms Amendment Bill of 2021 which proposes tighter controls and management of firearms, and the establishment of the National Firearms Register.
The changes are aimed at assisting in reducing the number of firearms in private hands and consequently reduce incidents of violent crimes. The bill also aims to improve the processing, control of firearms and the application system.
However, one of the controversial aspects of the new bill relates to self-defence and the inclusion that ‘no firearm licenses may be issued for self-defence purposes’.
The bill further regulates the issuing of licences for hunters, with applicants having to prove that they are engaged in the hobby.
Government has taken its first steps to regulate foreign workers, through a change in road traffic regulations which will effectively ban foreign truck drivers from working in South Africa.
The proposals state that drivers with a public drivers permit issued by a foreign country would only be allowed to drive vehicles not registered in South Africa, according to Rapport.
Gerhard Papenfus of the National Employers’ Association, told the paper that this would make foreign truck drivers unemployable and was likely to conflict with both existing labour laws and the constitution.
At the end of April, Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi said that his department is currently working on the labour migration policy which will be tabled in cabinet soon.
Nxesi said the policy will regulate and limit sectors on the number of people employers can hire from other countries especially in sectors that do not require sophisticated skills.
“We have signed binding international agreements and will ensure that our policy does not conflict with those agreements. In short, whatever we do, will be in line with the Constitution,” he said.
Nxesi said that the policy would primarily deal with low-skilled workers, with the government expecting a ‘big debate’ given the tensions around foreigners in the country.
He added that South African employers deliberately prefer foreign workers as a source of cheap labour, as they are willing to take ‘anything’ for wages.
The minister said that a number of interventions were being considered as part of the policy, but confirmed that his department was considering the introduction of quotas that would specify how many foreign workers could be hired in a given sector.
Based on previous comments by Nxesi, the sectors which are likely to be directed impacted by the labour migration policy include:
- The hospitality sector;
- Farming and agriculture.
Concerns have also been raised around the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination bill which was recently published for public comment.
The main purpose of the Act is to realise the constitutional right to equality so that people do not face unfair discrimination by either the state or anyone else.
However, legal experts have warned that the bill redefines the terms “equality” and “discrimination” to be much broader.
Specifically, the bill proposes to amend the definition of “discrimination” to make it clear that it is not necessary for a person to act with intention before they can be found guilty of unfair discrimination.
The definition of ‘equality’ has been broadened to include equal rights and access to resources, opportunities, benefits and advantages.
The draft legislation also departs from the fault requirement found throughout South African law by creating liability for unintentional acts or omissions which cause prejudice to or undermine the dignity of a person.
Finally, it will make persons ‘vicariously liable’ for contraventions of the act performed by their workers, employees, or agents. This would include discrimination, hate speech and harassment.