Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Tuesday (1 September) received briefings on three pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening the country’s new laws against gender-based violence (GBV).
The new legislation forms part of a push by president Cyril Ramaphosa to tackle GBV and femicide in the country which has reached ‘endemic proportions in South Africa’.
The proposed laws are outlined in more detail below.
The Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Bill
The bill introduces, among other things, a new offence of sexual intimidation to protect persons from threats of imminent sexual harm.
It further aims to extend the ambit of the offence of incest, so as to provide additional protection to children as well as extending the reporting duty of persons who suspect that sexual offences have been or are being committed against children.
The National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO)
The proposed amendments in the bill expand the scope of the NRSO to include the particulars of all sex offenders and not only sex offenders against children and persons who are mentally disabled.
It also aims to expand the ambit to include other vulnerable persons, namely women between the ages of 18 and 25; all persons with physical, intellectual or mental disabilities; and persons aged 60 or older who, for example, receive community-based care and support services.
It also increases the periods for which a sex offenders’ personal details must remain on the NRSO before they can be removed.
The Domestic Violence Amendment Bill
The bill aims to optimise collaboration between departments like the Department of Health, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Social Development to streamline the provision of domestic violence services.
It further aims to simplify and clarify the roles of all relevant stakeholders by expressly including the services to be rendered and to address identified gaps or shortcomings impacting on the optimal implementation of the Act. It makes provision for secure online application for a protection order.
The Cybercrimes Bill
Parliament is also set to discuss the Cybercrimes Bill in the coming weeks.
Originally introduced in 2017, the Cybercrimes Bill focuses on criminalising the theft and interference of data and bringing South Africa’s cybersecurity laws in line with the rest of the world.
The objectives of the bill are, among others, to:
- Create offences and impose penalties which have a bearing on cybercrime;
- To criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful and to provide for interim protection orders;
- To further regulate jurisdiction in cybercrime.
“The bill further aims to regulate the powers to investigate cybercrimes, to further regulate aspects relating to mutual assistance in respect of the investigation of cybercrimes and to provide for the establishment of a 24/7 point of contact,” the NCOP said.
“The bill also impose obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cybercrimes. It also provides that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cybersecurity.”
Some of the online messages which are covered under the bill include:
- A message which incites damage to property or violence;
- A message which threatens persons with damage to property or violence;
- A message which unlawfully contains an intimate image.
Last week, Ramaphosa’s Cabinet also approved several pieces of legislation for submission to parliament.
Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said that the bills will address a number of issues – including national elections and sectional title properties.
Electoral Law Amendment Bill
Mthembu said that the Electoral Law Amendment Bill will make a number of changes to existing electoral legislation in South Africa.
The amendments will among other things introduce innovations in electoral practices in keeping with best practices to improve the IEC’s efficiency in managing elections, he said.
In June, the Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s Electoral Act is unconstitutional as it does not provide for adult citizens to be elected to the National and Provincial Legislatures as independent candidates.
In July, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said that it is considering the introduction of electronic voting in an effort to increase efficiencies in the elections process in South Africa.
Sectional Titles Amendment Bill
Mthembu said that the Sectional Titles Amendment Bill will amend the current Sectional Titles Act which provides for the establishment of sectional title schemes.
The minister said that the proposed amendments will provide clarity and give additional protections to tenants and other people who hold the lease of a property.