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NA Adopts Historic National Mininum Wage Bill, Ground-Breaking Public Audit Amendment Bill and Four Other Important Pieces of Legislation

29 May 2018

In its last plenary session for the second quarter of Parliament for 2018, the National Assembly (NA) adopted six crucial Bills and two committee reports. The NA also approved two legislative proposals and engaged in oral questions with Deputy President David Mabuza.

1. Labour Bills: The National Minimum Wage Bill [B31-2017]; consequential amendments to the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill [B30 - 2017] and the Labour Relations Amendment Bill [B32 - 2017]

The National Minimum Wage Bill, the first ever since the dawn of democracy in 1994, seeks to improve the lives of the lowest paid workers in the labour market and carries the promise of addressing the challenge of inequality in South Africa and by extension, poverty.

The Bill establishes the National Minimum Wage Commission; the Statutory National Minimum Wage Level and exemption provisions for those who cannot afford. The National Minimum Wage Commission will take over many of the functions of the current Employment Conditions Commission. The Commission will recommend annual adjustments to the level of the national minimum wage and review it on a regular basis in order to take into account the impact of the level on employment, poverty and inequality.

The adoption of this historic National Minimum Wage Bill goes a long way in protecting millions of vulnerable workers who have been earning far below the current National Minimum Wage. Although the National Minimum Wage of R3,500 per month is not considered a living wage, it does however establish wage floors below which no employers are permitted to pay the employees covered. The National Minimum Wage will cover about 75% of agricultural workers who earn below R2,000 and about 90% of domestic workers who earn below R3,120 per month to name a few examples. This represents a significant advance in ensuring that workers are protected from slave wages.

The amendments in the Basic Conditions of Employment Amendment Bill are primarily consequential to the introduction of the National Minimum Wage legislation. The amendments in the Labour Relations Amendment Bill seek to create provisions to give effect to the Code of Good Practice on Strengthening Collective Bargaining, Prevention of Violent and Prolonged Strikes.

2. Public Audit Amendment Bill [B 13 - 2018]

Another ground-breaking legislative amendment passed by the NA are the amendments to the Public Audit Act. The Public Audit Amendment Bill seeks to empower the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) to refer all material irregularities detected during an audit to the relevant public institutions such as the Hawks, the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Public Protector, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) and others for further investigation. In turn, these public institutions are expected to take appropriate action against all parties found guilty of financial misconduct.

The Bill also empowers the AGSA to issue a certificate of debt against all accounting officers who are found to have acted contrary to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and other relevant legislation. The AG will then report all instances of certificates of debt issued to the Speaker of the National Assembly on an annual basis in order to allow parliament to demand accountability in terms of progress with regard to repayment. The adoption of this Bill therefore gives the AG the necessary teeth to bite overspending, fraud and corruption from the public purse.

On its deliberations on the Bill, the ANC in the National Assembly also condemned in the strongest possible terms all those who intimidate, threaten or attempt to bribe employees of the Office of the Auditor General to soften or falsify uncomplimentary reports. We urge SAPS to act with speed in bringing the perpetrators to book.

3. Communal Property Associations Amendment Bill [B12B - 2017]

As part of the ANC's continued land restitution programme to ensure that land is returned to the dispossessed, the Communal Property Associations (CPA) Amendment Bill ensures the necessary beneficiation post restitution of land to those who have been dispossessed.

The amendments in the Communal Property Associations Amendment Bill seek to, among other, provide for the establishment of a Communal Property Associations Office and the appointment of a Registrar of CPAs. It also provides for general plans for land administered by an association and provides for improved protection of the rights of communities in respect of movable and immovable property administered by an association. This will give dedicated attention to the work of CPAs in ensuring the land rights of our people are protected.

4. National Research Foundation Amendment Bill [B23B - 2017]

The formulation of the National Research Foundation Amendment Bill was prompted by recommendations contained in the 2012 Ministerial Review Report on the National System of Innovation. The Bill provides for the Minister of Science and Technology to determine national policies and issue policy guidelines for implementation. It also seeks to extend the functions, powers and duties of the Foundation to ensure that it delivers on its mandate.

All six Bills will be sent to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence.

The NA also agreed to legislative proposals submitted by the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs to amend the Immigration Act and proposals to amend the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Act as submitted by the Portfolio Committee on Finance. The House further adopted committee reports of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the removal from office of Magistrate V.T. Gqiba, Chief Magistrate in East London after having been found guilty of misconduct by the Magistrates Commission. The NA also adopted the report of the Standing Committee on Appropriations and Finance on the contract extension of Director of the Parliamentary Budget Office, Professor M. I. Jahed until three months after the 2019 national and provincial general elections.

The ANC Chief Whip congratulations all members of the ANC Caucus in their splendid work over this quarter in ensuring parliament delivers on both its legislative and oversight mandate.

We look forward to further deliberations in the NCOP and committees which will continue to sit until Parliament breaks for Constituency period in June.

Issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip, Hon. Jackson Mthembu.

Nonceba Mhlauli

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