Parliament passes 8 new bills – including changes for pensions and a new SOE in South Africa

 ·27 Mar 2024

The National Assembly had a busy day on Tuesday (26 February), giving the green light to eight bills, including ones that see an overhaul of South Africa’s State Security Agency, retirement reform, and the creation of a water state-owned enterprise.

The bills passed were:

  • General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill;
  • Pension Funds Amendment Bill;
  • South African National Water Resources Infrastructure SOC Bill;
  • Division of Revenue Bill;
  • Second Adjustments Appropriation Bill;
  • The National Nuclear Regulator Amendment Bill;
  • South African Institute for Drug-free Sport Amendment Bill;
  • and the Gold and Foreign Exchange Contingency Reserve Account Defrayal Amendment Bill.

General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill

The government published the bill back in November 2023, which, among amending 12 other security laws, is aimed at countering the erosion of the country’s State Security Agency (SSA) by overhauling it.

This follows the findings of the High-Level Review Panel and the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that the agency had been repurposed to keep former president Jacob Zuma and his allies in power during his presidency.

The bill indicates, among other key changes, that two separate agencies will replace the SSA with different mandates: one for foreign intelligence (South African Intelligence Service) and the other for domestic intelligence (South African Intelligence Agency).

It also provides for re-establishing the South African National Academy of Intelligence (SANAI), which will be responsible for intelligence training.

However, it has faced criticism from civil society and other groups for its wide-ranging interpretations of national security, individuals of national security interest, and the extensive powers granted to state security operatives.

Parliament, however, said in a statement that it “provides for a legislative mandate for bulk interception, a regulatory framework for compliance monitoring and coordination, and aligning intelligence activities.”

Pension Funds Amendment Bill

The Pension Funds Amendment Bill was also passed, ultimately amending the Pension Funds Act to provide for a two-pot retirement system.

This creates a provision to allow fund members to access their retirement savings during emergencies without having to resign.

“Traditional retirement systems primarily focus on long-term savings, often lacking the adaptability to address immediate financial crises [however] this reform balances long-term security and immediate needs, recognising life’s unpredictability,” said Parliament.

South African National Water Resources Infrastructure SOC Bill

Published in August 2023, the bill provides for establishing the South African National Water Resources Infrastructure Agency as a state-owned company and major public entity.

“Amid water service delivery pressures in some parts of the country, it is envisioned that this new Agency will help create a reliable water supply in the country,” said Parliament.

Division of Revenue Bill

Tabled in Parliament on 21 February 2024 by the finance minister Enoch Godongwana, the bill “provides for the equitable division of revenue raised nationally among the national, provincial, and local spheres of government for the 2024/25 financial year,” said Parliament.

The proposal includes an extra allocation of R1.4 billion to the municipal disaster recovery grant, which is said to support the repair and reconstruction efforts of municipal infrastructure damaged in the floods of 2023.

Second Adjustments Appropriation Bill

Focusing on the 2023/24 financial year, the bill provides for adjustments to the appropriation of money from the National Revenue Fund for the state.

Some of the allocations include:

An additional R70 million allocation will be allocated to cover the cost of the Ministry of Electricity in the 2023/2024 financial year.

It also suggests allocating an extra R200 million to the Department of Home Affairs to enhance the allocations to Political Party Funding.

National Nuclear Regulator Amendment Bill

This bill amends the National Nuclear Regulator Act, which regulates nuclear activities and provides for safety standards and regulatory practices for the protection of persons, property and the environment against nuclear damage.

It was argued that this reform was necessary to “align it with the current international regulatory best practices,” as “South Africa is one of the founding members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is a signatory to various international conventions governing nuclear safety that have been promulgated under the auspices of the IAEA,” said Parliament.

South African Institute for Drug-free Sport Amendment Bill

The bill is said to promote participation in sports free from prohibited substances or methods that enhance performance artificially.

Parliament said this is “in the interest of the health and well-being of sportspersons, [as] the Bill prohibits doping practices that contradict the principles of fair play and medical ethics.’

It also outlines the creation of the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport, detailing its structure, member compensation, and financial management. It also describes the Institute’s responsibilities, powers, and accountability mechanisms.

Gold and Foreign Exchange Contingency Reserve Account Defrayal Amendment Bill

The Gold and Foreign Exchange Contingency Reserve Account, maintained by the Reserve Bank (SARB), records the profits and losses from specific foreign currency transactions. This account serves to safeguard the SARB against the volatility of currency fluctuations.

This account garnered widespread attention when Minister Godongwana announced in the 2024 budget speech that the country would draw R150 billion from it.

“The Bill provides, among others, for direct charges against the National Revenue Fund for the Contingency Reserve Account of the SARB,” said Parliament.

It also requires the reporting of such funds, as informed by a New Settlement Agreement between the Minister of Finance and the SARB Governor.

Read: 4 new bills passed by Parliament – with big changes for pensions in South Africa

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