The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) at its sitting on Wednesday morning passed three Bills, the Cybercrimes Bill, The Civil Union Amendment Bill and the Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill.
The Cybercrimes Bill was initially introduced as the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill in 2017. It was referred to the fifth democratic Parliament’s Select Committee on Security and Justice from the National Assembly on 27 November 2018. The Bill was thoroughly advertised for public participation in 2019, where substantive inputs were provided by various stakeholders and individuals. However, it lapsed at the end of the fifth Parliament and it is among the Bills that were revived by the NCOP through a resolution on 17 October 2019.
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, and to further regulate jurisdiction in respect of cybercrimes.
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 Bill also impose obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to assist in the investigation of cybercrimes. It also provides that that the executive may enter into agreements with foreign states to promote cybersecurity.
The NCOP also passed the Civil Union Bill, which was referred to the Select Committee on Security after its revival in 2019. The purpose of the Civil Union Bill is to repeal section 6 of the Civil Union Act of 2006 which allows a marriage officer to inform the Minister that he or she objects on the ground of conscience, religion, and belief to solemnising a civil union between persons of the same sex.
During the vigorous processing of the Bill, the Select Committee received extensive submissions – a total of 325 submissions from organisations and individuals either in favour or against the amendment Bill. The Committee also considered Section 195 (1) of the Constitution which provides that public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, including in subsection (d) that services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.
The Committee noted further that Section 197(3) of the Constitution provides that no employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause. The Committee agreed that the repeal of Section 6 of the Civil Union Act, 2006 was important in advancing equality and upholding the Constitutional rights afforded to persons entering into same sex unions.
The Science and Technology Laws Amendment Bill was also passed by the sitting of the House. The Bill seeks to amend the Scientific Research Council Act of 1988, the Academy of Science of South Africa Act of 2001, the Human Sciences Research Council Act of 2008, the Technology Innovation Agency Act of 2008, and the South African National Space Agency Act of 2008, so as to harmonise the processes for the termination of the membership of Boards or Councils of the entities established by these Acts.
The Bills will be sent to the President for assent.
ISSUED BY PARLIAMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA