Government Department Scorecard

FOR SA’s Political Engagement and Voting Summary

Over the five-year lifespan of this Parliament, FOR SA has engaged in every piece of legislation where we identified a potential threat to our right to religious freedom. The Scorecard shows how political parties voted that engaged the most with religious freedom issues. Since the Scorecard concerns legislation (Bills) before Parliament, only parties with seats in Parliament are included.

FOR SA is politically neutral. We are willing to work with any political party. To this end, we have engaged many political parties to lobby them with our religious freedom concerns – and to ask them to support our positions.  

The Scorecard is a summary, taken directly from official Parliamentary records (the Hansard) of how the various parties voted on the different issues. It does not indicate the reasons why the different political parties cast their vote a certain way, although it is simple to see how party voting aligns with FOR SA’s concerns.

Some Bills were passed with amendments, meaning that in certain instances some (but not necessarily all) of our religious freedom concerns may have been addressed to a certain extent. For this reason, we indicate our stance on both the initial and final versions of Bills (draft laws before Parliament). If a Bill undergoes significant amendments which address our most serious religious freedom concerns, our stance changes. Where Bills are still progressing through Parliament, we are unable to indicate our final stance.

In addition to the summaries below, FOR SA’s written submissions on the various Bills can be viewed in our Document Library. Our formal submissions provide a comprehensive overview of our concerns and recommendations.

Please select the Acts below to access further details.

Civil Union Amendment Act

Status: Passed (with amendments)

FOR SA’s concerns: This law was introduced as a private member's Bill by Deisre Carter, MP (former) of the Congress of the People (COPE). It amended the Civil Union Act by removing the express protection of state-employed marriage and ex officio marriage officers (such as magistrates). I.e. they can now be compelled to solemnise same-sex civil unions even if it is against their conscience, religion or belief.  

FOR SA’s proposed practical solutions, which would have ensured equal service delivery to same-sex couples while upholding conscience rights, were rejected. This law erodes the conscience right of state-employed and ex officio marriage officers and impairs the scope of religious freedom in South Africa.

Domestic Violence Amendment Act

Status: Passed (with amendments)

FOR SA’s concerns: While we fully support efforts to stop domestic violence, the original version of the Bill included problematic (overbroad) definitions for "coercive behaviour", "controlling behaviour" and "domestic violence".

Of particular concern was the inclusion of a new crime of "spiritual abuse” that was non-sensical. FOR SA submitted a recommendation for an improved definition of “spiritual abuse”, which was approved and included in the final version of the Bill, aligning it with the Constitution and preventing a “bad precedent” from being set.

Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terror and Related Activities Amendment Act

Status: Passed (with amendments)

FOR SA’s concerns: This law contains a very long, vague and broad definition of terrorist activity which is open to abuse. It refers to “serious public emergency” and “general insurrection” – which could include civil society organisations and advocacy groups engaged in legitimate protest, advocacy, awareness-raising, etc.

This law poses a serious threat to religious freedom, especially since being found guilty of terrorism related crimes is coupled with very harsh – including in some instances, life – prison sentences.

General Laws (Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorism Financing) Amendment Act

Status: Passed (with amendments)

FOR SA’s concerns: This law requires the mandatory registration of non-profit organisations. It also provides the State with broad and intrusive powers, including potentially requiring NPOs to amend their founding documents [EG] concerning leadership and membership.

This could open the door to State regulation of religion, which will violate the right to religious freedom, especially the autonomy of religious organisations and freedom of association.

Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill

Status: Awaiting Presidential signature

FOR SA’s concerns: The Bill is unconstitutional because it fails to define “hate” or “hatred” and has several vague and overbroad definitions [EG] hate speech and harm. It also includes an extended list of grounds for hate speech while the self-defeating religious exemption clause offers little protection.

This poses a serious threat to (and is a constitutionally unjustifiable limitation of) freedom of expression, including religious expression. It also falls short of South Africa's international obligations to uphold freedom of expression and international guidance in this regard.

Expropriation Bill

Status: Awaiting Presidential signature

FOR SA’s concerns: We specifically contested for an exemption clause to exclude and protect land (and even other movable and intellectual property) that is owned or used by religious institutions and communities for bona fide religious purposes. This was rejected.  

If such property is expropriated, it will have a direct impact on freedom of religion and the rights of religious communities. If expropriated without compensation, it will also be a great financial loss for affected religious institutions and communities.

Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill

Status: Passed by NA*, before the NCOP

FOR SA’s concerns: We objected to the original draft of the Bill that took the power to manage school assets from the SGB and gave it to the MEC for Education. This could have prevented churches from renting/using school facilities for meetings etc. It was removed.

The current version of the Bill does not have a direct impact on freedom of religion. However, it may have an indirect impact on religious education to the extent that it curtails the powers and prerogatives of SGBs (which set the culture and context of public schools and represent parental authority in the public school system) and parents’ ability to home school.

Disaster Management Amendment Bill

Status: Rejected

FOR SA’s concerns:
FOR SA helped to draft a private members’ Bill, which was sponsored by Dr PJ Groenewald, MP of the Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus). The Bill aimed to correct the serious lack of accountability by the Executive that was experienced during the COVID lockdowns.

The amendments proposed limiting the powers of the Executive concerning the duration of a “State of disaster” by proposing oversight by the National Assembly, provincial legislatures and municipal councils, including over the extension of national, provincial and municipal states of disaster.

Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill

Status: Rejected

FOR SA’s concerns: We opposed this resolution to amend the South African Constitution to specifically allow land expropriation without compensation because this could include land owned and used by religious organisations.  

The African National Conference (ANC) could not muster the two-thirds majority required for a constitutional amendment. The focus of their land reform policy then switched to the "Expropriation Bill", which required a simple majority to be passed.

GILAB (Spy Bill)

Status: Passed by NA, before the NCOP

FOR SA’s concerns: The first version of the Bill specifically targeted religious organisations and contained many vague and broad definitions which opened the Bill for abuse (potentially including mandatory security vetting of religious institutions and their leaders and requiring security clearance certificates to operate).

The current version is vastly improved, introducing better management and judicial oversight of bulk interception. Most problematic definitions and provisions were either improved or removed, including the provision providing for practically blanket mandatory security vetting. This is a big win for the power of public engagement in the law-making process!

The Bill is open for comment until May 12, 2024. FOR SA will make a further submission and oral presentation to Parliament to address any remaining concerns.

Marriage Bill

Status: Before the NA

FOR SA’s concerns: While overall a very good Bill, the draft version did not expressly protect the conscience right of religious marriage officers not to be compelled to solemnise marriages that go against their or their institutions' beliefs.

The current version expressly protects religious marriage officers. It also recognises religious marriages (as the draft version did). However, it does not protect the conscience rights of State-employed or ex officio marriage officers.

A BIG “Thank you!”

FOR SA staged multiple public engagement campaigns to give people the opportunity to “have your say” on proposed legislation.

Thank you to the tens of thousands who participated. This has been highly effective in adding to the weight of the submissions
FOR SA made to amend and improve the final versions of Bills that became law.

Note on party positions and voting

FOR SA has endeavoured to the best of our ability to accurately reflect political parties' positions on the various bills listed above. In this regard, we have relied on the Hansard. In instances where parties’ positions or voting was not sufficiently clear, we opted to rather not indicate whether the particular party was for or against a bill.

If we have inadvertently captured any information inaccurately, we urge parties to contact us immediately to rectify any inaccuracies.