New laws planned for South Africa – including relief for anyone who broke Covid lockdown rules

 ·20 Mar 2023

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development intends to make changes to the judiciary under the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, 2023.

The new version of the amendment bill intends to change multiple acts under the department that addresses the practical, procedural and technical issues regarding non-contentious cases and constitutional judgments.

In a gazetted explanatory summary, the department said the bill would make its way to the National Assembly shortly.

The bill contains 37 clauses that all bring some level of change to current regulations.

The new bill is set to amend other pieces of legislation, such as the Magistrates Courts Act, the State Liability Act, the administration of Estates Act, and the Criminal Procedure Act, among others.

The majority of changes planned include those relating to the internal functioning of the judicial system in a very specific sense, such as the rules regulating payment methods for affidavits, the regulation of calling witnesses and multiple extensions of definitions.

According to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, the bill is one of roughly 60 that are currently at various stages of the legislative process.

Two of the most notable planned amendments include the Criminal Procedure Act and the Domestic Violence Act:

The Criminal Procedure Act

The bill provides changes to the Criminal Procedure Act, especially to provisions detailing the admission of guilt and the payment of fines.

It further provides for the payment of a fine without an appearance in court and a previous conviction.

Notably, the bill provides for the removal of a criminal record for a person who is deemed to have been convicted and sentenced in respect of an offence contemplated in any regulations that have been made in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 – if they had paid an admission of guilt fine or appeared in court.

Summarily, the bill removes the criminal records of people who paid a fine for breaking Covid lockdown laws.

Laws relating to the pandemic included:

  • The wearing of masks;
  • Only participating in limited social gatherings;
  • Not being on the roads at certain times;
  • Alcohol restrictions;
  • Tobacco restrictions.

The Domestic Violence Act

The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill will also introduce a penalty for falsely declaring domestic violence.

Prior to the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, the Domestic Violence Act was amended through the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.

That bill sought to revise and provide new definitions, including ‘controlling behaviour’ and ‘coercive behaviour’ and expand the current definition of ‘domestic violence’ to include spiritual abuse, elder abuse, and exposing children to listed behaviours.

Additionally, the updated legislation introduces online applications for protection orders against domestic violence. It imposes duties on officials in Health and Social Development Departments to provide support to domestic violence victims.

The full explanatory note is provided below:

See the full 2017 bill below:


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