4 major new bills have just been approved by Cabinet – here’s what you need to know

Cabinet has experienced a bumper month, with a number of budget speeches, meetings and discussions held over the past few weeks.

This includes a number of new bills and amendments, with Cabinet announcing and approving four major pieces of legislation on Thursday (24 May).

These include new proposals targeting criminals, new proposed laws focusing on medical aids and hospitals, as well as new legislation protecting the environment.

You can find a brief outline and explanation of these bills detailed below.


Tougher stance on criminals

Arguably the biggest new set of proposed laws, Cabinet has approved the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Act effectively allowing criminals in sexual offence cases to be prosecuted, even after 20 years of the crime having taken place.

The bill will also extend the list of sexual offences liable for prosecution.

“The proposed amendment bill will extend the list of sexual offences in respect of the prosecution and significantly, it allows for the charges to be instituted even after 20 years,” minister of communications Nomvula Mokonyane said on Thursday.

She said the proposed amendments give effect to the South Gauteng High court judgement in the Levenstein case.

“The case declared Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51, 1977 inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it bars, in all circumstances, the right to institute a prosecution for all sexual offences, other than those listed in section 18 (f), (h) and (i) of this Act after the lapse of 20 years from the time when the offence was committed.

“The amendments will allow the National Prosecuting Authority wider discretion to institute prosecutions in sexual offences in accordance with Chapter two of the Constitution,” Mokonyane said.


Two new health bills

Cabinet has also approved two new health bills to be published in the Government Gazette for public comment.

The Medical Schemes Amendment Bill of 2018 seeks to amend the current Medical Schemes Act to align it with the National Health Insurance White Paper and the Draft National Health Insurance Fund Bill.

Among other changes the Bill proposes uniform tariffs for healthcare providers in South Africa, as well as a proposed prohibition of members being charged co-payments.

“The bill, among others, seeks to improve the regulation of the medical schemes industry and to also align the regulatory framework to the changes that have taken place over the past decade in the sector,” said Mokonyane.

“This bill will also ensure that beneficiaries are better protected and promotes better access to private health funding,” the minister said.

The second major health-related piece of legislation approved by government was the State Liability Amendment Bill.

“It provides for the settlement structure of claims against the State that came as a result of wrongful medical treatment of persons by servants of the State,” Mokonyane said.

“This will provide for a reduced impact of lump sum payments on the budgets of public hospitals, and will increase the financial resources available to provincial hospitals to provide health care services,” she said.


Climate change

The final piece of legislation which was approved by Cabinet was the National Climate Change Bill, which will also soon be available for public comment.

This includes new measures to cut down on the country’s carbon emissions and greenhouse-gas output.

“The bill allows for the alignment of policies that influence South Africa’s climate change response. It will ensure the country’s transition to a lower carbon and climate resilient economy,” said Moknonyane.

The minister added that the Bill was an additional step in South Africa’s efforts to implement the national Climate Change Response Policy, to promote sustainable development, and to fulfil the right to an environment that is not harmful to health or wellbeing, as enshrined in the Constitution.

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