Tag: Parliament

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

Facebook reneged on a commitment to appear before the Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies this week because, at the time, it was the only company that confirmed its attendance.

“Without more industry players and other key stakeholders present, we believed the Roundtable would not meet the objectives that were outlined to us, hence we requested that the Roundtable be postponed to a later date,” said Kojo Boakye, the Facebook public policy director for Africa.

“We believe as a Tech Industry, it is important that we collectively come together to outline how we support elections and ensure election integrity in light of the local Government Elections taking place later this year,” Boakye stated.

“The Roundtable with the Parliamentary Committee was meant to do just that.”

Facebook initially agreed to meet with South Africa’s Parliament over concerns around misinformation and disinformation before the 2021 local elections.

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Phumzile Van Damme said at the time that the meeting was requested by the DA.

The reason for inviting Facebook was to establish what steps the tech giant would be taking to tackle harmful misinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming elections.

“Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation,” Van Damme said. “We would like to see the same done for South Africa.”

In September 2020, the social media company implemented measures which it said were intended to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people with authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These included updates related to misinformation, COVID-19 and voter suppression, and a ban on new electoral, political, or social issue ads.

Facebook is also in hot water with South Africa’s Information Regulator, which has challenged the tech giant on the implementation of a new privacy policy for WhatsApp.

The Information Regulator contends that the Protection of Personal Information Act of South Africa is similar to the data privacy laws of the European Union, and that WhatsApp should therefore offer South Africans the same privacy protections as it affords users in Europe.

The chairperson of the Information Regulator, Pansy Tlakula, recently called on the South African government to help the regulator in its engagements with Facebook.

“We are fighting a giant,” Tlakula told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

“They cannot willy-nilly abuse the personal information of users,” she stated.

Tlakula proposed that the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services join forces with the Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies to ask questions of Facebook relating to the WhatsApp privacy policy changes.

With Facebook pulling out of its meeting with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies, it is unclear whether the tech giant will give feedback on any of the South African government’s questions.

However, Facebook has stated that it is open to rescheduling the meeting.

“Our commitment to participating in a roundtable is well documented,” said Boakye.

He said that Facebook remains committed to engaging with national governments, and has clearly indicated to the committee that it welcomes ongoing dialogue, and a meeting at a later date.

“Facebook has teams and technology in place to protect the integrity of elections in South Africa, across Africa and around the world. We devote extensive resources to reducing the spread of misinformation and fighting election interference on our platforms,” Boakye said.

It is interesting to note that when Van Damme announced that Facebook has pulled out of appearing at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Meeting, she also revealed that Google had committed to attending the meeting.

MyBroadband asked Facebook whether Google’s confirmation that it will attend the meeting changes its stance, but the company declined to comment further.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

 

Source: MyBroadband

Facebook has agreed to meet with South Africa’s Parliament over concerns around disinformation before South Africa’s 2021 local elections, the Communications and Digital Technologies Committee has said.

The meeting – which was requested by the Democratic Alliance – is set to take place on 25 May 2021.

“Facebook’s agreement to the meeting is historic and a source of pride for South Africa as a first in Africa, and one of a few countries in the world to successfully secure a meeting with Facebook,” said DA MP Phumzile van Damme, who had issued the invitation.

“We commend Facebook for agreeing to the meeting which we hope will be constructive.”

Van Damme said the reason for inviting Facebook was to establish what steps the tech giant would be taking to tackle harmful misinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming elections.

“Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation,” Van Damme said. “We would like to see the same done for South Africa.”

In September 2020, the social media company implemented measuress which it said were intended to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people with authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These included updates related to misinformation, COVID-19 and voter suppression, and a ban on new electoral, political, or social issue ads.

Van Damme said the protection of private data of South African users on Facebook-owned platforms would also form part of the meeting.

The DA MP was likely referring to concerns around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy among South Africans.

The implementation of the policy was delayed following heavy backlash from users earlier in 2021.

“The aim of discussions with Facebook will be to ensure that the interests of the people of South Africa are protected as well as upholding the constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Van Damme said.

She added the meeting will also be the beginning of discussions regarding Facebook paying South African media houses for carrying their content as was recently successfully implemented in Australia.

The DA has sent similar invitations to other big tech giants – Google and Twitter.

Bill to nationalise Reserve Bank re-introduced

Source: Eyewitness News

The reintroduction of the bill comes at an awkward time for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is on an investment drive to boost an ailing economy.

An opposition politician’s bill to nationalise the South African central bank that spooked investors when first unveiled a year ago has been revived and referred back to lawmakers, parliamentary papers showed on Tuesday.

The reintroduction of the bill comes at an awkward time for President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is on an investment drive to boost an ailing economy. He has to juggle his pro-business approach with left-leaning elements of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) that want to legislate for land expropriation without compensation, among other policies.

Introduced by leftist politician, Julius Malema, in August last year, the bill lapsed when a new Parliament was elected in May. Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) were one big winner, gaining 19 new seats.

When initially introduced, the South African Reserve Bank Amendment Bill put pressure on the ANC to go through with a plan it shelved in 2018 and rattled markets wary of threats to the central bank’s independence.

The ANC has said any plans to nationalise the bank will be done responsibly and not affect the institution’s mandate or independence. Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago has previously warned that the ownership debate was increasing investor uncertainty and pushing up the risk premium attached to the country’s debt.

Unlike most central banks in the world, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is privately owned. The ANC resolved at a party conference in December 2017 to move it into full state ownership.

Malema’s private members bill will be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for further deliberations and public input before the lower house of parliament votes on it. If passed, it would normally then go to parliament’s upper house for approval before Ramaphosa signs it into law.

Malema, however, believes it is not necessary to refer the bill to the upper house, which could hasten its passing.

The cost of the NHI

The much-maligned National Health Insurance (NHI) bill has been tabled for Parliament’s consideration. Plans to prevent its rollout are already well underway, as medical professionals and opposition political parties vehemently oppose the proposals.

NHI in brief

  • Opponents believe that NHI would essentially be another state-owned entity – potentially failing, like Eskom, Denel and SAA
  • The taxpayer will fund the NHI
  • General tax revenue will include transferring funds from provincial health budgets to the NHI Fund
  • Taxpayers’ medical scheme fees tax credit will be reallocated to the NHI Fund
  • A payroll tax (employer and employee) will be implemented
  • A surcharge on personal income tax will be implemented
  • The bill obscures what the NHI rollout would cost, but three figures include R165 billion, R259 billion and R450 billion
  • There are roughly 21 million taxpayers in South Africa
  • Only 30% of them – about 7.6 million people – are actually registered to pay tax or sit above the annual income threshold
  • Taxpayers would pay between R7 857 and R21 428 per person for NHI
  • If everyone in South Africa had to contribute, they would pay between R2 807 and R7 656 per person

Source: Fin24

The rand briefly broke below R14.00 to the US dollar following the news that Parliament’s portfolio committee on public works withdrew its expropriation bill on Tuesday.

The public works committee said in a short statement that it “officially resolved, in accordance with Joint Rule 208 (2), to reject (withdraw) the Expropriation Bill [B4D of 2015] so that it may be re-introduced at a later stage”. The bill is separate to the review of section 25 of the Constitution currently under way to make it possible for the state to expropriate land without compensation.

The rand, which immediately firmed to R13.95/$, returned to trade 0.06% firmer at R14.15 to the greenback by 17:13 in Johannesburg.

Important to note is that the expropriation bill existed before the latest processes on land expropriation and was referred back to Parliament by former president Jacob Zuma, who said consultation around the bill was inadequate.

Zuma returned the bill to parliament in 2017 due to inadequate public participation for the bill.

During its December conference, the ANC and its delegates agreed that expropriating land without compensation should be among mechanisms to effect land reform.

The condition was that expropriation should not undermine the economy, agricultural production and food security.

The constitutional review committee is due to report back to Parliament regarding its findings from the nationwide hearings on expropriation soon.

The Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, said the country’s new Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill will be tabled in Parliament soon.

The Bill has already been approved by Cabinet.

“The Bill aims to put in place a coherent and integrated cybersecurity statutory framework to address various shortcomings which exist in dealing with cybercrime and cybersecurity in the country,” stated the SA Government website.

The purpose of the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill is to:

  • Create offences and prescribe penalties;
  • Further regulate jurisdiction;
  • Further regulate the powers to investigate, search and gain access to or seize items;
  • Further regulate aspects of international cooperation in respect of the investigation of cybercrime;
  • Provide for the establishment of a 24/7 point of contact;
  • Provide for the establishment of various structures to deal with cybersecurity;
  • Regulate the identification and declaration of National Critical Information Infrastructures and provides for measures to protect National Critical Information Infrastructures;
  • Further regulate aspects relating to evidence;
  • Impose obligations on electronic communications service providers regarding aspects which may impact on cybersecurity;
  • Provide that the President may enter into agreements with foreign States to promote cybersecurity; and
  • Repeal and amend certain laws.

How it will affect you

Michalsons law firm has published an overview of the Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill, explaining why we need it and who will be affected by it. The bill is aimed at keeping South Africans safe from cybercrime and consolidates the country’s cybercrime laws into one place.

People who will be affected by the new bill include “everyone who uses a computer or the Internet”, along with:

  • People involved with IT or POPI compliance;
  • Electronic Communications Service Providers;
  • Providers of software or hardware tools that could be used to commit offences;
  • Financial services providers;
  • Owners of copyrights and pirates;
  • Information Security experts; and
  • Anyone who owns an Information Infrastructure that Government could declare as critical.

What the bill deals with
The bill creates around 50 new offences, which are related to data, messages, computers, and networks, said Michalsons.

These offences include:

  • Using personal information or financial information to commit an offence;
  • Hacking;
  • Unlawful interception of data;
  • Computer-related forgery and uttering; and
  • Extortion or terrorist activity.

The penalties for these offences range from 1-10 years in prison or up to a R10-million fine.

The bill also aims to protect critical infrastructure of a strategic nature from interference and disruption.

This infrastructure includes that which aids in keeping the country’s security, defence, and law enforcement operational; and provides essential services.

Powers to investigate

“The Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill gives the South African Police and the State Security Agency extensive powers to investigate, search, access, and seize just about anything – like a computer, database, or network,” said Michalsons.

As part of the requirements of the bill, the Minister of Police must establish a National Cybercrime Centre and a Cyber Response Committee, of which the chairperson will be the Director-General: State Security.

The Minister of Defence must also establish and operate a Cyber Command, while the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services must establish a Cyber Security Hub.

Source: www.mybroadband.co.za

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