SONA2016: 18 acts passed in Parliament last year


The National Assembly is quiet before the arrival of guests and Members of Parliament ahead of the State of the Nation Address, 12 February 2015.

CAPE TOWN – Despite the entertainment that Parliament provided last year with the student protests and MPs shouting across the National Assembly floor, work was being done.

Last year, President Jacob Zuma signed 18 bills into law.

Some of the new legislation has helped strengthen South Africa’s constitutional democracy while other bills helped Eskom keep the lights on and approved funds for wasteful expenditure.

Here is a list of all the acts passed last year:

The Eskom Subordinated Loan Special Appropriation Amendment Bill and Eskom Special Appropriation Bill took the shortest time to pass through Parliament, at only one month.

In June last year Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene told MPs they had no choice but to rescue the ailing power utility.

The bills, signed into law on July 3 resulted in a R23-billion bail-out for Eskom.

The Appropriation Bill signed into law on July 24 allowed for money from the National Revenue Fund to be appropriated for government requirements for the 2015/2016 financial year.

The Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill passed on November 8 amended tax rates and monetary amounts.

On December 15 he passed the Finance Bill, which allowed for the unauthorised expenditure of more than R100-million to be approved (an important note is that it doesn’t “detract from or limit any power or duty to take appropriate steps to recover unauthorised expenditure from a responsible official or former official”) and the New Development Bank Special Appropriation Bill, which allows South Africa to pay the first instalment required to loan from the Brics bank (set up by Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA).

South Africa needed about R2-billion from the National Revenue Fund (Treasury) for the initial capital investment.

On Christmas Eve, (December 24) Zuma was still at work and signed the now-controversial Tax Laws Amendment Bill into law. From March 1, employees will only have access to one third in of their retirement funds, while two-thirds will be paid out in instalments upon retirement.

Cosatu has strongly objected to the new legislation, saying that the government does not have the right to dictate to workers how and when they can spend their retirement savings.

On May 30, the Division of Revenue Bill was passed, allowing for the equal division of funds raised in all sections of government for the 2015/16 financial year. An amendment to this bill is yet to be approved.

The Financial and Fiscal Commission Amendment Bill, signed into law on July 3, sets out changes in the Financial and Fiscal Commission to fully align its functions with the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Act, 1999.

New roles are aimed at improving oversight in the commission by introducing an administrative position of chief executive, who may not be a member of the commission or occupy the position for more than five years.

On December 15, the Disaster Management Amendment Bill was signed into law, thereby allowing the country to be better prepared for climate change-related disasters like floods.

The act stipulates the inclusion of new disaster risk assessments and mapping of risk areas where communities are vulnerable to disasters.

Assessments should also include plans to reduce the risk of disaster through adaptation to climate change.

The Refugees Amendment Bill, which became an act on September 23, allows the public and media access to cases heard by the Refugee Appeals Tribunal.

This is only on condition that the asylum-seeker in question gives his or her consent and if it’s in the public interest.

The Merchant Shipping Amendment Bill signed on October 19 makes changes to the Merchant Shipping Act of 1951.

The adjustments bring the legislation more in line with the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 and the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007.

Anyone employed to work on a South African-owned ship must be physically fit and pass the colour and form vision tests before they can legally work.

On December 15 Zuma signed another four bills:

The Agremnt South Africa Bill is quite complicated in its scope but basically improves regulation and better transparency around the construction of big infrastructure projects.

Under the Defence Laws Repeal and Amendment Bill, 16 defence acts were made redundant.

The Castle Management Act, 1993 was amended to remove a paragraph that was deemed unconstitutional.

The Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill is aimed at allowing the government to create a more transparent environment for private investments.

It replaces previous investment treaties held with several European governments.

The Criminal Matters Amendment Bill makes changes to the Criminal Procedures Act of 1977. The changes are regarding infrastructure-related offences.

On December 24 Zuma signed another two bills into law.

The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill creates more stability in the courts as it permits acting magistrates to be appointed for 12 months instead of three as previously stated.

It is also aimed at achieving improved reporting by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) due to the amendment of the Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Act, 1996.

The head of the SIU is now expected to report quarterly to the president and cabinet member responsible for the unit on the progress of its investigations brought before the special tribunal.

The Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill made minor adjustments to 11 different tax-related acts.

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