The political landscape ahead of key regulatory changes

05 February 2024 James George, Compliance Manager at Compli-Serve SA
James George

James George

This year promises to be a loud, interesting, and unpredictable time in South African politics and governance. The 2024 parliamentary year in South Africa has already begun, marked by the return of MPs engaging in summits, training, constituency, and committee work.

This year, the focus is also heavily on the upcoming election, with political parties actively compiling candidate lists, organising rallies, and preparing manifestos.

The parliamentary calendar for this year is especially hectic and unpredictable due to the election. Parliament will first dissolve and then reconstitute after the elections, with the Sixth Parliament term concluding in mid-May. Elections are expected between May and mid-August 2024, as per the Constitution. The President will announce the election date, followed by an official proclamation in the Government Gazette. Similar to 2019, Parliament is set to adjourn in early May, though MPs could be called back for emergency matters until May 8th.

National and provincial governments will remain in office until newly elected representatives assume their roles. Decisions must be made about which outstanding parliamentary businesses to drop due to time constraints.

Pre-Election Focus

The State of the Nation Address, confirmed for February 8, will celebrate 30 years of democracy and reflect on the administration's five-year achievements. Following this, the Finance Minister will present the draft 2024/25 Budget on February 21. With 54 Bills in Parliament, efforts will be made to finalise as many as possible before the session ends. Key legislation expected to be completed includes the Climate Change Bill, Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, Expropriation Bill, and others. Parliament will also address impeachment votes for two judges, publish its Sixth Term Legacy Report, finalise appointments, and conclude investigations.

Amidst these tasks, MPs are likely to be more focused on campaigning, leading to increased political theatrics and promises.

Post-Election Dynamics

The composition and trajectory of the new Parliament will be shaped by the 2024 election results, which, for the first time, will include independent candidates contesting national and provincial seats. The Seventh Parliament could see significant changes, including more women, younger MPs, and possibly new parties. Parliamentary restructuring will follow, with corresponding oversight committees for each government department.

Immediate tasks for the new Parliament will include electing a President, appointing parliamentary leadership, and setting up structures and visions for the next five years. A major focus will be implementing the Zondo Commission recommendations and managing budget cuts.

COFI – A Game-Changing Acronym

The Conduct of Financial Institutions Act (COFI) is poised to transform South Africa's financial regulatory landscape. While its promulgation date in 2024 is uncertain, COFI will focus on customer-centric market conduct, requiring enhanced transparency and fair customer treatment. The draft COFI Bill is currently under review by the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser (OCSLA), with potential recommendations for changes before it is introduced in Parliament.

Stakeholders are advised to await the formal introduction of the bill in Parliament, as selective provision to specific groups could pose challenges.

The introduction of COFI not only signifies a shift in regulatory approach but also represents a consolidation of financial sector laws under one comprehensive framework. This legislation is designed to ensure that financial institutions conduct their business with integrity and in a manner that prioritises the interests of their customers.

The Act is expected to encompass a wide range of financial entities, including banks, insurers, and other financial service providers, imposing strict standards for customer treatment and ethical financial practices. Its promulgation is eagerly anticipated by industry players, as it will bring clarity and uniformity to the regulatory landscape, potentially increasing consumer trust and stability within the sector. As the parliamentary year unfolds, the progression of COFI will be closely monitored by all stakeholders, highlighting its significance in shaping the future of South Africa's financial industry.

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