The South African National Assembly suspended over Covid 19

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The National Assembly this morning held its last sitting before it suspends its business until further notice as a precautionary measure in response to Covid-19, following the declaration of the virus’s outbreak as a national state of disaster by the President in terms of the Act. Today’s sitting was important, as the passing of the 2020 Division of Revenue Bill, which provides for equitable division of funds raised nationally among the national, provincial and local spheres of government, will also enable allocation of funds to fight the virus.
 
The Division of Revenue Bill also provides for determining each province’s equitable share of revenue and for any other allocations to provinces, local government or municipalities from the national government’s share of the revenue. Also specified are the conditions of those allocations.
 
The Standing Committee on Appropriations recommended that the National Assembly agree to the Bill without amendments.
 
It also recommended that the Minister of Finance and several Ministers report on a range of issues within 60 days of the Bill being adopted by the National Assembly.

The Committee received a briefing on the Bill from the National Treasury and had engagements with the Financial and Fiscal Commission, the Parliamentary Budget Office and the South African Local Government Association. In response to its media adverts calling for public submissions, the committee received submissions on the Bill from the Pietermaritzburg Pensioners’ Forum, the Amandla.mobi, the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse, the Rural Health Advocacy Project and Mr. MG Buthelezi. 
 
Today’s sitting of the National Assembly also passed the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill [B13 – 2019].
 
The Bill aims to implement Constitutional Court rulings concerning the Divorce Act of 1979 and the National Prosecuting Authority Act of 1998.
 
On 23 October 2018, the Constitutional Court found the Divorce Act of 1979 to be constitutionally invalid because it excluded a spouse married out of community of property who had not entered into an ante-nuptial contract or an express declaration, in terms of section 39(2) of the, now repealed, section 39 of the Transkei Marriage Act of 1978.
 
The Bill’s amendments seek to regulate the division of assets and maintenance of parties in divorce proceedings, in line with this Constitutional Court ruling.
 
On 13 August 2018, the Constitutional Court declared sections 12(4) and (6) of the National Prosecuting Authority Act of 1998 to be constitutionally invalid. The Constitutional Court found that these provisions undermined and compromised the independence of the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions. Section 12(4) empowered the President to extend the term of office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions or a Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions beyond the age of 65 years for a period of no longer than two years. Section 12(6) of the National Prosecuting Authority Act permitted the President to suspend the National Director of Public Prosecutions or a Deputy National Director for an indefinite period and without pay.
 
The Bill proposes to remove the powers of the President to extend the term of office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions or a Deputy National Director. It also provides that the period of suspension of these officials may not exceed 12 months and that they are entitled to their full salary during the period of suspension. 

 
Also approved at today’s NA sitting were draft notices and schedules determining the rates of remuneration payable to magistrates and judges, as proposed by President Cyril Ramaphosa. 
 
In February, President Ramaphosa informed NCOP Chairperson Mr Amos Masondo and NA Speaker Ms. Thandi Modise that he had received annual salary recommendations from the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers. This was that salaries of magistrates be increased by 4%, effective from 1 April 2019, and salaries of Constitutional Court judges and judges of other courts be increased by 3%, also effective from 1 April 2019. 
 
However, considering the serious economic challenges the country is experiencing and its currently constrained fiscus, President Ramaphosa said he did not intend to increase the salaries of Constitutional Court and other court judges. He did, however, intend to increase the salaries of magistrates by between 2.8% and 4.5%.
 
Approval is needed from both Houses of Parliament for the proposed remuneration to become effective. This can now be effected, since the NCOP already approved these draft notices and schedules on 12 March.

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