Tag: regulation

New bill aims to ‘regulate’ Airbnb in SA

The public has 60 days from Monday April 15 to submit comments on the Tourism Amendment Bill, which will regulate short-term accommodation in the so-called shared economy, Blessing Manale, chief director of communications at the Department of Tourism, told Fin24 on Monday.

Airbnb is an example of such a business model.

“We are not trying to ‘kill’ Airbnb-type accommodation, but there is currently no legislation stipulating who is responsible for regulating that industry,” he said.

The bill was published in the Government Gazette on Friday April 12 and re-published on Monday April 15, due to a printing glitch. The bill will enable the minister of tourism to determine certain so-called “thresholds” for short-term home rentals.

According to Manale, these could include a limit on the number of nights guests could stay at an establishment. It could perhaps even limit the number of guests due to potentially larger water consumption in an area. Thresholds could also look at pricing, zoning, how much an establishment can earn and maybe even regulating matters like security.

“It is ultimately to ensure we bring all the various types of short-term accommodation into one pot. We want to make sure that whatever shared economy business model comes here, we are ready for it,” said Manale.

The Department of Tourism plans to discuss with provincial and local governments on issues like oversight on zoning and whether Airbnbs-type establishments should only be allowed to operate in certain areas.

“We are proposing to first empower the minister of tourism and then he can decide what should be the biggest priorities, for instance for thresholds,” said Manale.

He emphasised that it is not about whether operations like Airbnb and should exist or not.

“They are, however, mostly self-regulating. We now just want to hear both sides – from those having such accommodation establishments and those who feel it is hampering the more ‘formal’ tourism industry,” he said.

“The bill is now under public consultation. We just want to gather input from the industry, local government and even tax experts on how to deal with income, for instance, that might be falling through the cracks.”

The department is in the process of holding seminars and workshops to inform people about the bill and its proposed changes for the shared-economy.

“There is still a long way to go,” said Manale.

“From government’s side, we realise that it will be useless to make regulations if we cannot ‘police’ it,” he said.

“Those running the likes of Airbnbs need not worry that government wants to ‘kill’ the shared economy in the tourism industry. It is a business model that works. The intention of the bill is rather to create the best outcome for the local tourism industry.”

More information on how to submit comments on the bill can be obtained from Mmaditonki Setwaba on msetwaba@tourism.gov.za or 012 444 6312.

The Right2Know Campaign (R2K) and the Democratic Alliance has lashed out at State Security Minister David Mahlobo, who at the weekend said the regulation of social media in SA was being discussed at government level.

At a justice, crime prevention and security cluster media briefing on Sunday, Mahlobo indicated that the African National Congress-led government was contemplating regulating South Africa’s social media space.

In a statement on Tuesday, R2K said this would be an abuse of power that undermined democracy.

“R2K has already raised concerns that South Africa’s state security structures have abused their surveillance powers and shown a disregard for democratic process.”

R2K said members of the state security cluster had tried to paint their critics as “threats” who must be targeted.

“Now, out of thin air, we have state security proposing to ‘regulate’ social media. This is a clear move by state securocrats to try [and] clamp down on freedom of expression and increase their powers to censor the internet.”

Cyber bullies

R2K said the call from Mahlobo came on the back of a range of existing and “deeply problematic censorship policies”.

“Regulation of social media already exists. [Platforms] like Twitter and Facebook have added self-regulation measures to empower users to take action against online harassment and cut down on the spread of fake news and propaganda.”

Meanwhile, DA spokesperson on telecommunications and postal services Marian Shinn said the call from Mahlobo was “worrying”.

“Such statements pose a direct threat to media and internet freedom in SA. Instead of making such irresponsible threats, our government should rather distance itself from the continent’s despots when it comes to developing policies and regulations for internet behaviour.”

Shinn said Mahlobo’s concerns about false news and scams needed to be looked at against the backdrop of “the pending 2019 general election and the increasing denial of digital rights by African governments feeling threatened by the citizen empowerment that the world wide web facilitates”.

Shinn highlighted how the SA government, “along with cyber bullies such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and India”, had voted against the United Nations Human Rights Council’s declaration that access to the internet was a human right.

By Kaveel Singh for News24

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