7 new laws coming to South Africa – what to watch out for

 ·7 Jul 2023

South Africa’s Parliament has had a busy term, with various new laws – affecting pensions, medical aids, and Eskom – all edging closer to reality.

In its second term review of Parliament, assessing the ten weeks before 23 June, the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) reported that seven bills were introduced, with eight being passed to President Cyril Ramaphosa to be signed into law.

The PMG serves as an information platform that monitors the daily proceedings of Parliament. It also releases reports and documents that provide insights into the effectiveness of individual government departments.

Domestically, the legislative process is often lengthy and complex, with bills often sitting before Parliament for years, facing consistent deliberations and consultations in the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) or with the ultimate goal of refining the bill.

I. National Health Insurance Bill

One of the most notable and influential bills is the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill which seeks to provide universal healthcare to all South Africans.

After lengthy deliberations and processes spanning nearly four years, the NA passed the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill on 13 June, said the PMG.

The bill is now being processed by the NCOP, and Parliament’s next steps will include:

  • Briefing of permanent delegates in the NCOP
  • Briefings of delegates to legislatures in all provinces
  • Advertisements for input from the public to comment on the bill
  • Public hearings to be conducted by the NCOP
  • Provincial legislatures to follow their own public participation processes in preparation for submission of negotiating mandates to NCOP
  • The Select Committee’s position is to be consolidated, and final mandates received from provinces

The group said that no specific dates have been set at this time.

“Notably, as this is a Section 76 bill, it will be subjected to extensive scrutiny by the provincial legislatures because the content of the bill affects the interest, concerns, and capacities of the provinces.”

The bill is likely to face intense backlash and legal stalling from private-sector stakeholders that argue it is simply impossible.

2. Eskom Debt Relief Bill

Ramaphosa currently sits with the opportunity of writing off large portions of the power utility Eskom’s debt.

By assenting to the Eskom Debt Relief Bill as well as the Appropriation Bill (which allocates funding), Ramaphosa would institute a national debt relief strategy where R184 billion would be allocated in three parts to settle Eskom’s debts.

On top of the R184 billion, a further R70 billion will be provided in a direct take-over of Eskom’s loan portfolio in 2025/26.

Oversight committees have been established to ensure that the debt relief strategy is effective and the strict conditions of the interest-free loans are adhered to.

3. Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill

On 2 May, the NA unanimously passed a constitutional amendment to recognise Sign Language as the 12th official language.

The Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill was introduced in January 2023 and was also sent to the President for assent. The bill is not only symbolic in its push towards inclusivity and substantive equality but also to prevent unfair discrimination on the grounds of disability as enshrined in section 9 of the Constitution.

Up until this bill, South Africa’s Consitution provided for 11 official languages, namely: Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.

4. South African Postbank Limited Amendment Bill

The Postbank Amendment bill sees the introduction of a new state-owned and run entity, this time an affordable bank that could provide financial services to the youth, women-owned businesses and SMMEs.

It seeks to amend sections of the original Postbank Act in the reporting structure and to establish a new holding company for the Postbank.

Parliament said these changes would facilitate Postbank’s registration as a Bank Controlling Company, allowing it to operate as a full-fledged bank.

5. Financial Matters Amendment Bill

The Financial Matters Amendment Bill proposes changes to various pension-related, monetary, and auditing provisions.

It targets eight existing laws and aims to rectify discrimination against life partners of military pensioners. Additionally, the bill includes amendments to the Government Employees Pension Fund for fair treatment of pensioners and their life partners.

On 20 June, the bill was passed by the NCOP and sent to Ramaphosa for assent.

6. Land Court Bill

On 13 June, the Land Court Bill was passed by both the NA and the NCOP and sent to Ramaphosa for assent.

The bill has been in Parliament since May 2021 and went through consultations and public hearings until September 2022, when it was passed from the NA to the NCOP.

The bill’s objective is to establish a Land Court and facilitate appeals against its decisions on land redistribution.

It aims to promote equitable access to land in accordance with Section 25 of the Constitution as well as address the major backlog in pending land redistribution cases.

7. Repeal of the Transkeian Penal Code Bill

The only bill on this list that seeks to remove an original law, the Repeal of the Transkein Penal Code Bill aims to repeal the Transkeian Penal Code, which is seen as an apartheid-era law which allowed for criminal procedure outside the confines of traditional common law.

Essentially the bill is considered out of date and unnecessary, given the Transkei was incorporated back into South Africa almost 20 years ago.

Read: Bad news for salaries and wages in South Africa

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