A number of regulatory changes took place in South Africa in 2018, impacting a variety of sectors and that to varying degrees speak to the rule of law.
Conduct of Financial Institutions Bill – This draft bill was published by the National Treasury on 11 December 2018 for comment. The bill outlines what customers and industry players can expect of financial institutions. Among other items, it includes the implementation of the Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) principles which currently have little legal backing. Comments are being accepted until 1 April 2019.
Competition Amendment Bill – This bill introduces amendments to the market inquiry and abuse of dominance provisions, as well as penalty increases for cartel conduct. The bill is currently with the President for signature.
Financial Sector Regulation – It’s been an impactful year heralding major reform in the financial services sector. This act saw the implementation of new regulators for the financial services industry. The Prudential Authority was established and the Financial Services Board (FSB) was replaced by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA).
National Minimum Wages Act – The act was signed into law in late November 2018 and, with the exception of section 174, and commence on 1 January 2019. The act introduced a R20 hourly rate as the minimum wage but will not initially apply to farm or domestic workers, with these sectors due to be phased in over time.
The Legal Practice Act – The highly anticipated changes in terms of the Legal Practice Act came into effect ushering in a new era for the legal profession. The Legal Practice Council has been established which took over the regulation of both advocates and attorneys from the law societies and bar councils.
Companies Amendment Bill – These are the first amendments to the Companies Act since it was implemented in 2011. Some of the key proposed changes will impact the disclosure of remuneration and benefits paid to directors and prescribed officers, financial assistance to a subsidiary within a group and share buybacks.
GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was enacted in the European Union (EU) on 25 May 2018. This applies to all South African companies that offer goods or services to people or monitor the behaviours of people in the EU. The GDPR aims to protect all EU citizens from privacy and data breaches and prescribes principles for the processing of personal data.
Mari van Wyk, executive manager Strategic Alliances & Partnerships at LexisNexis South Africa said that robust economies are dependent on the existence of clear laws that govern societies and commerce.
“Deep-rooted economic development and transformation can only occur in societies where the rule of law exists.”
Without a transparent legal system, with the main components of such a system including a clear set of laws that are freely and easily accessible to all literate persons, strong enforcement structures and an independent judiciary, the rule of law cannot exist, LexisNexis said.
“In 2019 legal and business professionals would do well to ensure that they have the necessary tools and facilities in place to be kept abreast of changes due to take place in the year ahead,” said Raffael Beires, GM of legal information and compliance for LexisNexis South Africa.