Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has welcomed the coming into operation of certain sections of the Cybercrimes Act, with effect from 1 December 2021.
In a statement, the Minister said it was necessary to align the country’s law with international trends and best practices.
He said: “Another consideration is the evolving nature of cybercrime. The methods of committing cybercrimes change rapidly and our laws need to keep pace with the more intrusive and complex investigative measures which are needed to investigate cybercrime.
“Various countries, including other countries on our continent have enacted or are in the process of enacting cyber-specific laws to deal with cybercrimes.”
The Ministry said the Act streamlined the laws of South Africa which deal with cybercrime into a single law that criminalises conduct considered to be cybercrimes.
The Act also criminalised the disclosure of data messages which are harmful and provides for protection orders to protect victims against harm. The Act also regulated the powers to investigate cybercrimes.
Cybercrime, being transnational in nature, required collaboration with other countries, and the Act regulated aspects relating to mutual assistance in respect of the investigation of cybercrimes. To ensure proper coordination of cases in South Africa, the Act provides for the establishment of a Point of Contact within the South African Police Services.
The Ministry said the Act also imposed obligations on electronic communications service providers and financial institutions to report cybercrimes to the SAPS and provides for capacity building by the SAPS to detect, prevent and investigate cybercrimes.
“As empowered by the Act itself, different sections of the Act may come into operation on different dates. In this regard, the President has put into operation substantial portions of the Act,” it said.
The sections that come into operation on 1 December 2021 are:
Offences: Chapter 2, with the exclusion of Part VI, would come into operation on 1 December 2021. These sections create offences, which include, among others, offences against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data, computer programs and computer systems; offences facilitated by cyber means, such as cyber fraud; aggravated offences to protect essential computer systems and persons against harm as a result of criminal conduct in cyberspace; the disclosure of data messages which incite damage to property or violence; which threatens persons with damage to property or violence; or of an intimate image of a person.
Jurisdiction: Chapter 3 affords courts the ability to deal with cybercrime where these have occurred outside South African borders, bearing in mind the transnational nature of cybercrime.
Powers of South African Police Services: Chapter 4 regulates the powers of the SAPS to investigate cybercrime or other offences that are committed or facilitated by cyber means.
Proof of certain facts by Affidavit: Chapter 7 provides for the designation by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services of the category of persons who are competent to make an affidavit.
Reporting Obligations and Capacity Building: Chapter 8 deals with reporting obligations and capacity building and will come into operation on 1 December 2021 (with the exclusion of section 54.)
The Ministry said the sections which were being put into operation on 1 December aimed to ensure that the SAPS was adequately capacitated and trained to deal with cybercrimes; that verifiable statistics of the extent of cybercrime in South Africa is available; the effectiveness and capacity of the SAPS to investigate cybercrimes can be evaluated, and the capacity of the NPA to prosecute cybercrimes can be evaluated.
Certain sections of the Act could not yet be put into operation as they require regulations which are still to be finalised. These sections include, amongst others, those relating to protection orders against the harmful disclosure of pornography and the establishment of a functional Point of Contact within the SAPS to coordinate cybercrime investigations within the Republic and to facilitate international cooperation.
The remaining sections would be put into operation in due course, once the concomitant regulations have been finalised.
“Cybercrime is a reality of the world we live in. More and more criminals are exploiting the internet and online means to commit a diverse range of crimes. We therefore need to make cyber space safer and more secure,” said the Minister.