Ramaphosa signs off three new laws for South Africa

 ·4 Apr 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed three bills into law – with 23 more waiting in the wings.

Ramaphosa has signed off on the National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill, the Agricultural Product Standards Amendment Bill, 2023 and the Correctional Services Amendment Act.

Despite signing the Bills, the President still has 23 Bills on his desk waiting to be signed, which have passed through the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

This includes the controversial National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill and the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill, both of which have faced massive backlash from businesses and political parties.

With Parliament still rushing through multiple bills ahead of the 29 May election, the President will likely have more on his desk by the end of term.

A breakdown of the three new laws can be found below:

The Correctional Services Amendment Act

The amendment follows a 2020 Constitutional Court judgement in providing the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) an adequate level of independence.

The amendments include changes to section 30(7), allowing inmates subjected to solitary confinement to be informed of their right to appeal.

The amendment also states that the Head of the Correctional or Remand Detention Facility must provide all relevant information relating to an appeal to an Inspecting Judge within 24 hours of receiving said information.

The Act also provides for the following:

  • The appointment of the Chief Executive Officer of the JICS by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services instead of the National Commissioner of Correctional Services.

  • The expenses incurred by the Judicial Inspectorate will be covered by budgets appropriated by Parliament. The Department of Justice and Correctional Services budget previously covered these costs. 

  • Mandatory reporting obligations by the Department to the Inspecting Judge.

The Agricultural Product Standards Amendment Act, 2023

The amended Act will enable the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to designate a person or entity that has particular knowledge of a product or relevant management control systems to inspect a commodity for quality control and audit management control system. 

The Act states this inspector must have no direct or indirect personal or financial interest.

National Veldfire Act

According to the Presidency, the amended National Veld and Forest Fire Act of 1998 will do the following:

  • Provide for the facilitation of the formation of fire protection associations by a municipality and a traditional council; 

  • Compel a municipality, state-owned enterprise, public entity or other organ of the state which owns land to join the fire protection associations; 

  • Extend the powers of entry, search, seizure and arrest to peace officers and traditional leaders; 

  • Amend the title of the Act to the Actional Veldfire Act.

Judicial Matters Amendment Act (Bonus)

In a separate announcement, the presidency also said that the Judicial Matters Amendment Act, 2023, was assented.

The law includes a provision, which allows the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, after due consultation, to determine if certain categories of an offence, if the accused pays or has paid an admission of guilt fine, will not result in the accused receiving a criminal record.

This will include offences related to the Covid-19 state of disaster regulations.

Another provision relates to people who willfully make false declarations in support of an application for a protection order in terms of the Domestic Violence Act, 1998. Any false declaration will now receive a penalty.

It also repeals a common law relating to the crime of defamation, with various international and local stakeholders expressing concern about the effect such offences have on journalists.

Nevertheless, the crime of crimen injuria and civil remedies for defamation continue to be applicable.

“Whilst the amendments may appear to be minor and technical in nature, they will significantly improve service delivery and the efficiency and responsiveness of the justice system in the related matters,” the Presidency.

Read: Massive property, electricity and water rate hikes expected to hit major cities in South Africa soon

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