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Slew of dubious legislation being rushed through Parliament is ‘electioneering at its worst’ – legal expert

Slew of dubious legislation being rushed through Parliament is ‘electioneering at its worst’ – legal expert
Illustrative image: Parliament of South Africa. (Photo: GCIS) | (Photo: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

The results of three separate, independent opinion polls released in October could point to the rationale behind the legislation being rushed through with little thought given to practical implementation or funding.

The government is fast-tracking new legislation and legislative changes in what seems to be a blatant ploy to win over voters ahead of next year’s elections.

The slew of legislation being rushed through includes retirement reform (the two-pot system) under the Revenue Laws Amendment Bill, the Pension Funds Amendment Bill, the Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill and the Expropriation Bill.

The biggest one is the National Health Insurance Bill, which was approved by the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday, 6 December. The Bill now awaits sign-off from President Cyril Ramaphosa, but the healthcare industry is aghast that it has gone this far with few to no amendments, and has not taken much, if any, feedback into account. 

Martin Versfeld, a partner at Webber Wentzel, says it is nothing more than “electioneering at its worst”.

“It’s extraordinary that the Bill has gone through unamended when even the Department of Health has accepted that there should be amendments pursuant to submissions made by the industry,” he says.

“The only plausible explanation for the way it has been rushed through in such an unseemly fashion is that this is part of the electioneering process.

“It’s got nothing to do with whether the Bill is in good order or not, and everything to do with the ANC wanting to make the statement that they are changing the healthcare landscape, [when] what they’re in fact doing is reckless.”

Versfeld says consequences could include massive disincentives for those wanting to study medicine, massive push factors for healthcare providers to exit the market and huge uncertainty for the medical schemes industry, whose future hangs in the balance.

The Board of Healthcare Funders says the Bill in its current form restricts medical schemes to the provision of complementary cover, potentially rendering them unsustainable, and the enormous economic value that medical schemes currently add to the health sector would be lost to South Africa if the Bill goes ahead unchanged.

Even the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, in a carefully worded statement issued on Wednesday, said: “Continued collaboration with all stakeholders, transparent communication and a phased approach to implementation are crucial components of our strategy.” 

Versfeld points out that, since the idea of the NHI was first floated, the question of how it will be funded has remained unanswered.

Minister of Health Joe Phaahla. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

Retirement reform

Then we have the two-pot retirement reform system, where the implementation date allowing members to make an initial seed withdrawal from their retirement funds has been ping-ponging back and forth.

The implementation date was initially set at 1 March 2023, then postponed to 1 March 2024. The retirement funds industry made much of the fact that this did not give it sufficient time to change its processes accordingly.

At the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) on 1 November, National Treasury indicated that the implementation date would move to 1 March 2025. And then, in an astonishing about-turn, Parliament’s finance committee voted to move the implementation date back to 1 March 2024 (on the back of very loud motivations from labour unions), before the implementation was moved to 1 September 2024, where it now stands.

Joon Chong, a partner at Webber Wentzel, says retirement funds have indicated they need 12 to 18 months from the date of final legislation to implement the required changes. However, the September implementation date, though better than 1 March 2024, will only give them six months’ lead time.

“Effectively, around 1,324 active retirement funds will have to have rule amendments signed off by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority before 1 September,” she says. 

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has cautioned that this process alone will take at least three months.

SRD grant extension

The Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant has been extended by another year to March 2025, although National Treasury has made it clear that additional taxes may be needed to fund the grant.

The SRD grant was introduced to support low-­income individuals affected by the lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic and was intended to be in place for one year only. However, as elections loom in 2024, the grant has been extended each year, despite the glaring lack of a funding mechanism.

The MTBPS last month cautioned that, if the SRD grant or a similar type of new grant were made permanent, beneficiaries were expected to increase from 27.3 million in 2023/24 to 40.4 million in 2040/41. This was expected to shift social grant expenditure to 3.8% of GDP in 2040/41.

ANC’s dwindling popularity

The results of three separate, independent opinion polls released in October could point to the rationale behind the legislation being rushed through with little thought given to practical implementation or funding.

An Ipsos poll in June and July found 43% support for the ANC, 20% for the DA and a much-improved 18% support for the EFF, with the remaining 19% split among a host of smaller parties.

Two separate telephonic polls, by The Brenthurst Foundation and the Social Research Foundation, presented similar results. Notably, the Ipsos and Brenthurst Foundation polls also showed the ANC losing its majority in two key provinces: Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. Together with the Western Cape, which has long been governed by the DA, the three provinces account for more than half of South Africa’s population and nearly two-thirds of its GDP. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Pam Saxby says:

    Hi, Daily Maverick! No Road Accident Fund Amendment Bill has been tabled in Parliament yet. In fact, the draft Bill was only released in September for public comment and is unlikely to be finalised in time for Parliament to process before the elections. The Pension Funds Amendment hasn’t been tabled, either – not yet.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    This is Africa at its worst! It happened in Zimbabwe when Zanu-PF were losing support. Land grabs secured votes but completely destroyed the country’s enormous agricultural sector. Years on Zimbabwe ranks with Venezuela as the World’s most ruined countries. Our geniouses are playing the same game; populist policies, hollow promises, free T shirts but absolutely no concern about the consequences for the country.

    • Sydney Kaye says:

      If there is one thing more irritating than the self serving corrupt behavior that you mention it is the “this is Africa” stuff since unfortunately it is now the MO of most governments. For instance the British Tory party is pushing through a hopelessly impractical immigration bill to satisfy one of its factions, even to the extent of trying to overcome a fact by legislating that night is day, and in the epicenter of the civilised world the American Republicans preside over school gun massacres, gerimandering and lopsided tax cuts for their 0.003% of the population billionaires, all against the interests of the state and purely for Electoral reasons.

    • William H says:

      Don’t forget about the free KFC.

  • Rae Earl says:

    Typical ANC. Implement bad or unworkable policies and tell a largely gullible voting public that the party is acting in their best interests. Absolute rubbish of course; they are simply trying to ensure that their lucrative and dishonest gravy train rides can be maintained for another 5 years. If successfully implemented, the NHI would give the party direct access to R500 billion via a slew of murky deals and backhanders until all that remains of the NHI is a system that doesn’t work because the entire medical industry would have collapsed. The voters can decide. They have proved many times that they’ll back the ANC time and again. Read this quote from Author Ayn Rand and consider seriously, is this the party you want to vote for next year? This quote is an exact description of the ANC today:

    “When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed”.
    Ayn Rand

  • Dragon Slayer says:

    Remember Zuma’s Free education poison pill before he was booted out. This is the next one and will be the millstone around the neck of any new governing coalition; an irrecoverable cost burden on a country and, the final straw for many that are sick to death of a parasitic and hopelessly corrupt ANC.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    I suspect all this is being steered by the Presidency, not just Ramaphosa but the two Ramokgopa shrills and the detestable Ntshavheni

  • Ken Shai says:

    NHI is a very bad idea not just because there is little money, but because it increases corruption in medicine, the more money is poured into medicine, the more corrupt doctors and hospitals will be. The worst is diagnosis fraud, when patients are diagnosed with diseases they do not have, but the treatment of those diseases involves a profitable surgery, and profiting on fraudulent surgeries is the only reason fraudulent diagnoses are made. By allocating more funds to medical care, diagnoses fraud would boom and more harm would be done than good. Most people are simply better off by not seeking medical help at hospitals.

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