On 26 May 2021, the Cybercrimes Act, 19 of 2020 was enacted ("the Act"). The Act aims to protect citizens from the recent surge of digitised crime. We will explore what type of protection citizens can expect from the Act and from the statutory enactment of new cyber offences.

The Act has created a number of new statutory cyber offences in terms of South African law and applies to companies and individuals - this means that the Act has a very wide scope to protect citizens from multiple cyber threats.

The cybercrimes (as new criminal offences under South African law) created by the Act relate to::

  • cyber forgery which is the act of using incorrect data to make citizens subject of fraud;
  • cyber fraud – which is a criminal act with the intention to infiltrate a citizen's personal or financial information;
  • cyber extortion – which is the prohibited and premeditated capture of data for the aim of finding any gain or the stealing of intangible property;
  • unlawful access – which is the illegal access to a digital system (a computer) and the illegal seizure, obstruction or gain of data; and
  • malicious or harmful messages - these are messages that threaten destruction to one's person or property, or threaten to distribute sensitive information.

A person who is convicted of an offence under the Act is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period of up to fifteen years or to both a fine and such imprisonment as may be ordered in terms of the offence.

Some may argue that the Act ought to have been enacted a long time ago. Whatever your view may be, this piece of legislation is welcomed with cybercrimes and cyber bullying being rife in South Africa presently.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.