Its been another busy week for lawmakers as government begins to wind down for 2018.
After a long delay, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed off on a number of labour law changes – including a new national minimum wage – on Monday (26 November).
Following this, the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) also passed several bills at their plenary sittings on Tuesday, as they push through legislation ahead of year’s end and the 2019 national elections.
Four of the bills passed include:
- The Cybercrimes Bill;
- Child Justice Amendment Bill;
- National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill;
- Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill.
The approved bills will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence.
Below, we’ve looked at the proposed new laws and what they mean for everyday South Africans.
Parliament spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the general purpose of the Cybercrimes Bill is to criminalise the distribution of data messages which are harmful, and to provide for interim protection orders.
“Further to that, the bill seeks to regulate the powers to investigate cyber crimes,” he said.
While the bill has been praised for criminalising the theft and interference of data, it has also faced criticism as it introduces new laws surrounding malicious electronic communications.
This includes possible jail time of up to 3 years and/or a fine if a message is found to:
- Incite the causing of any damage to any property belonging to, or violence against, a person or a group of persons;
- Intimidate, encourage or harass a person to harm himself or herself or any other person;
- Be inherently false in nature and it is aimed at causing mental, psychological, physical or economic harm to a specific person or a group of persons;
- Be intimate in nature (aka nudity), and is distributed without the consent of the person involved.
Child Justice Amendment Bill
The Child Justice Amendment Bill aims to amend the Child Justice Act, which includes further regulating the minimum age of criminal capacity and provisions about decisions to prosecute a child who is 12 years or older but under the age of 14 years.
The primary objective of the new bill is to increase the minimum age of criminal capacity of children from 10 years to 12 years – and to remove the requirement to prove criminal capacity for purposes of diversion and preliminary inquiries.
A diversion program is a form of sentence in which the criminal offender joins a rehabilitation program, which will help remedy the behaviour leading to the original arrest and avoid conviction and a criminal record.
“The bill further aims to regulate the proof of criminal capacity; the assessment report by the probation officer as well as factors to be considered by a prosecutor when diverting a matter before a preliminary inquiry,” said Mothapo.
National Qualifications Framework Amendment Bill
Arguably the biggest addition of the new bill is the introduction of a ‘register’ of fraudulent qualifications which will contain the names and details of individuals and providers who had been found by a court of law to be holding or issuing at least one fraudulent qualification.
It is proposed that the register would then periodically be made available to the public to act as a deterrent for those considering misrepresenting their qualifications in the future.
According to the bill, ‘a fraudulent qualification or part-qualification’ includes a degree, diploma or certificate that is forged, fraudulently obtained or awarded in contravention of this Act, and has been declared as such by a court of law.
The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill
During its plenary sitting the NCOP also passed the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Amendment Bill.
The incoming Aarto Amendment Bill is set to fundamentally change driving in South Africa, as some of the biggest changes include:
- Failing to pay traffic fines can lead to a block on obtaining driving and vehicle licences, in addition to an administrative fee – in addition to other penalties.
- Where documents previously had to be delivered by registered mail through the post office, in terms of the amendment, authorities will now also be able to serve documents via e-mail and to send reminders via WhatsApp and SMS.
- A controversial change to the bill is that the option for offenders to elect to appear in court to challenge the prosecution has been removed.
- A new demerit system will be introduced. Depending on the severity of the offence, 1-6 points are allocated for offences. If an infringer has more than 12 points, it will result in the disqualification of the driving licence and three suspensions result in its cancellation.