Apart from those who specialise in the field of law, there aren’t that many people who know how South Africa’s legal system works. Legislation has an impact on every citizen’s life and livelihood, so it helps to have a working knowledge of how laws are made.
Bills and Acts
There’s an important distinction between Bills and Acts. Every Act starts out as a ‘draft version’, which is known as a Bill. But not every Bill is guaranteed to become an Act, or the Law of the Land. This applies to all kinds of laws, from Labour legislation to land reform. The democratic process demands robust debate on draft laws among the many levels of the government and the general public. Since legislation has an impact on all South African citizens, it’s important to obtain the country’s consensus.
Step-By-Step Process of How All Types of Legislation Become Law
- A Bill is a draft law and it finds its way into Parliament in many different ways. A Minister, Deputy Minister, other Members of Parliament or a parliamentary committee would introduce a Bill.
- There are many structures that review the feasibility and implications of different laws. Once a Bill has been introduced in the National Assembly, it then goes to a relevant committee and is published in the Government Gazette. At this stage, the public would get invited to comment on it.
- The Bill gets debated by relevant committees. Any suggestions and amendments that come after this are then made to the Bill.
- Depending on the Bill, the next step can be very time-consuming, but is a critical part of the democratic process. The Bill gets debated by the House and the proceedings are broadcasted to the public.
- Further debate occurs on the same Bill in the other House (there are two – National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces).
- The Bill then makes its way to the President for assent. Assent is when the President signs a Bill