Parliament, Tuesday 9 June 2020 – The National Assembly (NA) today passed the Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill, the Prescription in Civil and Criminal Matters (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill and the Social Assistance Amendment Bill.

The Bills will now go to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for consideration.

The Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill [B12 - 2019] aims to address a Constitutional Court ruling that section 7(1) of the Recognition of Customary Marriages Act of 1998 was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid. This was because the section limited the right to human dignity and discriminated unfairly on the basis of gender and race, ethnic or social origin against women who entered into polygamous customary marriages before the 1998 Recognition of Customary Marriages Act.

In its written report tabled to the NA, the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services said that, during deliberations on the Bill, concern was raised that the Bill did not define the forms of property ownership in terms of customary law, such as marital property, house property, family property and personal property.

The committee, however, said it felt that inserting definitions of these terms in the Bill would require in-depth research and extensive consultation with relevant stakeholders, to avoid unintended consequences to the detriment of women in customary marriages, whom the Bill aims to protect. The committee noted that the South African Law Reform Commission, with the Department of Home Affairs, is reviewing the South African marriage regime. The committee said it believes this process is better placed to investigate the definitions of forms of property ownership in customary law and, therefore, requests that the Ministry bring the matter to the attention of the Commission.

The Prescription in Civil and Criminal Matters (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill [B22 – 2019] amends the Prescription Act of 1969 to extend the list of sexual offences in respect of which prescription does not start to run under certain circumstances, regarding a debt based on the alleged commission of any of those sexual offences. The Bill also amends the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, to extend the list of sexual offences for which prosecution may be started after 20 years has lapsed since the date of the alleged commission of the sexual offence.

The Social Assistance Amendment Bill [B8B – 2018] sought among others, to amend the Social Assistance Act of 2004, to provide for additional payments linked to social grants; to provide for payment of benefits to a child-headed household; to provide for social relief of distress in the event of a disaster; to repeal the internal reconsideration process; to provide for an Independent Tribunal to consider appeals against decisions of the Agency, and to provide for the establishment of the Inspectorate as a government component.

Also approved at today’s NA sitting are candidates to fill vacancies on the Council of Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa), following the removal of Mr Ruben Mohlaloga as a Councillor and the Chairperson of the Council. The other four vacancies became available due to the end of the term of four councillors in April 2020. The National Assembly approved eight names from which the Minister should appoint five as ICASA Councillors in order of priority. The candidates are, Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng, Ms Yolisa Kedama, Ms Zolani Kgosietsile Matthews, Mr Peter Zimri, Adv.Luthando Mkutumela,Dr Charles Lewis, Ms Amanda Cuba, and Ms Sandisiwe Ncemane.

Today’s NA plenary also considered the first report of the National Assembly Rules Committee on amended rules of the House. The purpose of this rule is to enable the National Assembly and its committees to hold compliant virtual meetings using technological platforms. Rule 6 of the National Assembly Rules provides that the Speaker may give a ruling or frame a rule in respect of any eventuality for which the rules or orders of the House do not provide, having due regard to the procedures, precedents, practices, and conventions developed by the House and on the basis of constitutional values and principles underpinning an open, accountable and democratic society.

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