……article dated 15 September 2022…..

Window on Parliament…     

A view on legislation in process affecting business…. 

Parliament  is taking a short winter break, something it should really not do in the last period building up to the end of the year when the Sixth Parliament comes to an end.  Time is of the essence at the moment simply because before elections are held to form the next government, all legislation not completed falls away. It would be a painful process for any party to re-introduce an old Bill, especially for the ANC if the configuration of parties is changed or a majority reduced.

As we said last month, at this point in the political cycle, a President is looking back on promises made five years before on assuming office.  Consequently, election time is delivery time as far as votes are concerned. It’s a clean slate and old policy falls away. Accordingly, from now to December may be the last chance to get some of the outstanding Bills through and embedded into the legal system.

Business concerns

In this edition of ParlyReport the final passage of the Copyright Amendment Bill, introduced to Parliament as far back as 2015, is recorded in detail for the technical.  The Bill has a complicated history which has troubled the international business world as far as South Africa’s global trading image is concerned for many a year, even affecting at one stage the AGOA agreement with the USA and driving President Trump into a fury.

Slowly, both the DTIC and the ANC have realised that retrospective payments to ‘struggle’ and traditional singers and composers for their artistic works is not possible but a compromise on the situation has been found and the ANC has been asked not to get involved in copyright changes to author’s rights for the moment. Its just too complicated and the world needs the Bill to be passed. 

A way round international book publishing rights for educational use has to some extent found compromise and members of Parliament have learnt about such matters as the Berne Conventions and how important the outside world treats copyright, trademarks, patents and intellectual property.  Most important, the Bill will not have to go to all nine provinces and be explained all over again, nine times.

Long term project

Also in this edition, we cover the introduction of the National Health Insurance Bill to Parliament and the beginning of a process to introduce to our Statute Book the principle of universal national health.  Whether there is time left  to pass to establish the basic tenets and elements of such a process in this case into the SA statute book remains to be seen.  Aspects of the regulatory environment for such a scheme, particularly as far as a Fund and the provision of enlarged health structures, are probably more than a few years away.

Energy

The draft Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill, an important piece of legislation governing the restructuring of Eskom; the introduction of the office of an electricity supply regulator with NERSA as custodian and enforcer and the necessary structure for the purchase of energy from the private sector, appears to be going well.

This Bill should be finalised shortly, as will be the Gas Amendment Bill currently progressing through Parliament and which is the subject of an article in this current edition of ParlyReport.    That it has taken so long to introduce legislation for an essential component of the energy mix reflects upon a minister who seems all over the place.

Transport

Amendments to the National Road Traffic Amendment Bill are now finalised and once the Bill is signed into law, regulations will follow tightening up on foreign driving licences and permits and the responsibility of vehicle owners to ensure the person driving the vehicle is licensed with correct permits.  The blood alcohol limit  remains as before.

A final National Land Transport Amendment Bill has now been hammered out at last with suitable provisions for e-hailing with seven of the clauses on this subject re-worded and more in line with submissions made. The Department of Transport (DOT) has been requested to ensure that, after all the changes, no rewording on the Bill or parts of it will raise the risk of constitutional challenges on the autonomy of the provinces in any part of the Bill.  The DA are wary of attempts to nationalise bus transport systems, the reason that this Bill was returned by the President’s office after a threat of constitutional challenge.  

Deliberations are in the final stage under the aegis of Transport  Portfolio Committee on the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill.   Whether all this work will contribute to speeding up turn around in SA ports, now recorded in humiliating manner as some of the worst in global shipping circles. The office of the Regulator is to be curtailed in all probability confine its activities to the regulation only of state entities.

Environment

There is no movement on Minister Barbara Creecy’s  Climate Change Bill despite the pressure to move on since all signatories to the COP26 international agreement have to convert their undertakings into legislation.  Further debate is awaited  but there is the feeling that all await the outcomes of Minister Gwede Mantashe’s acrobatics on energy  legislation, his plans for gas reticulation and the conversion of LNG into fuels.

In complete contrast to this legislation, in an article in ParlyReport this month, we look at the legislative background surrounding the  call for gas exploration and management of the SA fuels adventure in the form of the SA National Petroleum Co;  Minister Mantashe’s moves to justify all the talk of Russian oil and gas; the move on the issue of fracking; and to deploy Gazprom subsidiary, Rosatom, in the search for oil in SA waters.  Its like living in two countries. Minister Creecy remains dead quiet.

Finance

The only new Bill to be tabled into Parliament in the last few weeks that may have implications for business is the SA Postbank Bill, this being another attempt to resuscitate the SA Post Office and finally enabling a structure to obtain a banking licence. It is planned to offer a full service by the state on small loans and provide the starting blocks of a state banking system with ATMs at all branches for lower income households. The SASSA grant programme remains the backdrop for such operations. 

This is an ambitious plan, and like the NHI plan, experts warn in financial circles that SA may not have  sufficient state funds to do things properly.  Meanwhile, the state says that in both cases all it wants to do is set up the basics now and move slowly into readiness.     

At last, he Financial Sector and Insurance Deposit Bills introduced by Treasury as essential legislation order to take the banking Twin Peaks financial regulatory programme to conclusion, has gone forward for signature.   All Budget legislation has been processed.

Justice

The Land Court Bill, on which there was an article in last month’s ParlyReport, is now moving towards debate, the Land Court to replace the Land Claims Court because of failed attempts to handle the land reform programme.   However, the whole exercise has once again slowed down following the pronouncement by Justice Minister Lamola on the parlous state of SA courts in general across the judicial spectrum.

 It could be that such money will be  spent on upgrading and repairing the existing judicial infrastructure, but all have to  await the outcome of the Budget appropriation and for Minister Lamola to speak to it.

Public Works

The Expropriation Bill grinds on awaiting the circulation of the new draft across the country, since the Bill requires input from all nine provinces, the milder wording for the ‘nil’ expropriation clause having been accepted by all parties in principle and the need to get going after the Julius Malema fiasco.

Labour

Meanwhile on the labour front the COID Amendment Bill has been returned from the NCOP who gave the necessary concurrence, to the NA for some small amendments at committee level.    By all account and by now, this Bill should have reached the Presidency for his signature into law, therefore joining the Employment Equity Bill, also passed.

All of this should make Minister Thulas Nxesi happy, who has been junketing all over the world and whose travel expenses have run into many millions. This is according to complaints from the DA who have his expenses to hand.   The minister is remarkably absent on trucking routes, particularly the N2, but has told everybody to await new legislation regarding the hiring of foreign labour, the bones of which sound like a constitutional challenge in the making.

Property
The Housing Consumer Protection Bill has been tabled in Parliament, but no meetings have yet taken place and the Sectional Titles Bill has moved on and being a Section 76 Bill must go to the nine provinces for approval and mandates.   The Bill deals with changes for a person who uses his own labour to build a home and builds for his own occupation, providing the home is part of an approved project – an exemption beforehand being contained in the Housing Consumers Protection Measures Act.

ends