South Africa’s Parliament is expected to deal with several important pieces of legislation in the coming year, including issues around land expropriation and healthcare.
Data provided by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) shows that there are currently 50 bills before parliament – including a mix of consequential, medium-level and minor legislation.
A total of 21 bills were passed in 2021 – three fewer than in 2020. Out of these bills, nine were money bills linked to the main and supplementary budgets.
Some of the significant bills set to be considered in the coming months are outlined in more detail below.
National Health Insurance
Parliament concluded its public hearings on the planned National Health Insurance Bill in February, with consideration of the bill expected to enter the next phase.
This includes a study tour to the United Kingdom to examine how its national health insurance system works.
The National Health Insurance (NHI) is a health financing system designed to pool funds to provide access to quality affordable personal health services for all South Africans based on their health needs, irrespective of their socio-economic status.
NHI seeks to realise universal health coverage for all. This means that every South African will have a right to access comprehensive healthcare services free of charge at the point of use at accredited health facilities such as clinics, hospitals and private health practitioners. This will be done using an NHI card. The services will be delivered closest to where people live or work.
The Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill was introduced in Parliament at the start of 2022 and proposes several significant changes for schools in South Africa.
Some of the key proposals in the bill include:
- A new starting age: School attendance in South Africa will be compulsory from grade R and no longer only from grade 1.
- Compulsory attendance: Stricter punishments will be introduced for parents who fail to ensure their children attend school, including jail time and/or a fine of up to 12 months.
- Corporal punishment: Corporal punishment is abolished and no person may inflict or impose corporal punishment to a learner at a school, during a school activity, or in a hostel accommodating learners of a school.
- Governing body disclosures: Members of a school governing body, like other public officials, will be required tp disclose on an annual basis their financial interests and the financial interests of their spouse, partner and immediate family members.
- Homeschooling: The bill introduces further clarity around home-schooling, including that South African learners may be educated at home only if they are registered for such education.
- Business with the state: The bill will prohibit educators from conducting business with the state or from being a director of a public or private company conducting business with the state, and creates an offence should an educator contravene the abovementioned provision.
The Cannabis for Private Purposes Bill is currently making its way through Parliament following its introduction in September 2020.
The bill outlines possession rules for cannabis users at home and people who wish to cultivate the plant. It also introduces new offences and provisions for people who previously received a criminal record for cannabis possession.
The draft bill states that an adult person may for personal use:
- Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis plant cultivation material;
- Cultivate the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a private place;
- Possess in private the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a public place;
- Possess the prescribed quantity of cannabis in a private place;
- Possess in private the prescribed quantity of cannabis plants in a public place.
The bill defines a ‘private place’ as any place, including a building, house, room, shed, hut, tent, mobile home, caravan, boat or land or any portion thereof, to which the public does not have access as of right.
Employment and Labour minister Thulas Nxesi published the draft Employment Services Amendment Bill for comment at the end of February.
The bill will empower the minister to set quotas for employment of foreign nationals, with the government identifying several business sectors that it feels gives preference to foreign workers over local hires.
About three million of South Africa’s 60 million residents are migrants, according to the national statistics agency, with many attracted by the prospect of finding work in the continent’s most-industrialized economy.
But jobs remain in short supply for the unskilled, with the unemployment rate currently standing at a record 35%, and the presence of foreigners has stoked resentment among some locals who see them as competitors for opportunities, housing and other services.
South Africa’s Expropriation Bill was tabled in 2020 and is expected to receive considerable attention in the coming year as the government looks to introduce the principle of land expropriation without compensation.
This bill is separate from the planned section 25 Constitutional change, which failed to pass in parliament at the end of 2021.