Plans underway for establishment of the seventh democratic Parliament

4 June 2024

Following the successful 2024 National and Provincial Elections held last week Wednesday, plans for the establishment of the country’s seventh democratic Parliament now get into full swing.

Explaining the next step after the elections concluded, Parliamentary spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, said Parliament is fully prepared, and all the necessary arrangements have been made for establishing the new National Assembly. 

“Comprehensive plans are in place to ensure a seamless transition, including onboarding new Members of Parliament,” Mothapo said in a statement. 

Mothapo noted that in democratic countries such as South Africa, Parliament plays a crucial role in making legislation and holding the government to account. 

“Under a proportional representation electoral system, Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected to represent the people of the country and act as their voice. Parliament, therefore, is accountable to the people of South Africa,” Mothapo said.

Mothapo explained that every five years, the people of South Africa have the opportunity to cast their votes for a new Parliament, and each new five-year term of Parliament is numbered.

This has happened in the elections of 1994, where people voted for the first democratic Parliament. The second Parliament followed the General Elections in 1999, with the third Parliament in 2004, the fourth in 2009, with the fifth Parliament in 2014 and the sixth in 2019.

On Wednesday, 29 May, South Africans cast their votes in the country’s seventh democratic election to determine which political parties and, for the first time, independent candidates, will represent them in Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures.

Mothapo said as the legislative authority of the democratic republic, the National Assembly must ensure a government by the people by choosing a President, providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, passing legislation, and exercising oversight over the executive’s actions.

He said the National Assembly may be constituted with no fewer than 350 and no more than 400 members.

“The National Assembly is elected for a five-year term according to Section 49 of the Constitution. When the term expires or the Assembly is dissolved, the President must call an election within 90 days.

“Although the term of this Assembly expired on 21 May, it continued to function until the day before the first day of the elections, which was midnight on 28 May.

"Currently, there is no National Assembly, and the process to establish the new House has commenced,” Mothapo explained.

Handling of election results

The election results must be declared within seven days after an election, in terms of Section 57 of the Electoral Act. Following this, members of the National Assembly are designated by the Independent Electoral Commission, and the Commission then hands these lists to the Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa, who then hands them over to Parliament.

First sitting of the National Assembly

The first sitting of the National Assembly must occur no more than 14 days after election results are declared, and the Chief Justice of the Republic, Raymond Zondo, will determine and gazette the date for this sitting. 

Mothapo explained that before members of the National Assembly perform their functions in the Assembly, they must swear or affirm faithfulness to the Republic and obedience of the Constitution, under Schedule 2 to the Constitution. 

“After the swearing in of members, the Chief Justice presides over the election of the Speaker of the National Assembly, who must, in turn, preside over the election of the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.

"The President of the Republic is the last to be elected by the House because the Assembly must be duly constituted first to exercise its power to elect the President. The Chief Justice presides over the election of the President,” Mothapo said.

Rules for the first sittings gazetted

Mothapo said the Office of the Chief Justice has officially gazetted the rules for the first sittings of the National Assembly. 

The rules, as approved by Chief Justice Zondo on 27 May 2024, outline the procedures for the election of key parliamentary and provincial officials, including the President, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, and the Chairperson and Deputy Chairpersons of the National Council of Provinces.

Election of the President 

Mothapo said the election of the President, who is chosen among the members of the Assembly, is conducted by the Chief Justice of the Republic and when elected President, a person ceases to be a member of the National Assembly. 

“Within five days, he or she must assume office by swearing or affirming faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution at an inauguration ceremony,” he explained.

Term of the President and Executive

The term of the President, along with the members of the Executive, only ends when the new President is sworn into office by the Chief Justice of the Republic. 

“This is usually during the inauguration ceremony after the National Assembly has elected the President. This is intended to ensure there is no gap in the country's administration between the election and the assumption of office by the incoming President.”

Opening of Parliament Address

Once the President has assumed office, Mothapo said he or she must appoint the Cabinet, and the President, in conjunction with the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, determines a date for the Opening of Parliament Address.

According to the new joint rules of Parliament, the Opening of Parliament Address (OPA) is now distinct from the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“The State of the Nation Address is held annually in February to outline the government's plans and priorities for the year and report on the state of the nation. The Opening of Parliament Address, on the other hand, occurs once every five years, after elections, to announce the new administration's plans and to mark the beginning of the new five-year parliamentary term.

“The Opening of Parliament is more than a ceremonial occasion – it is a platform where the government’s vision and priorities are presented, setting the tone for the legislative and administrative actions that will follow. It also symbolises the functioning of the new Parliament, reflecting the continuity and stability of governance,” Mothapo said.

Orientation of new MPs

Mothapo said the newly elected MPs are inducted and oriented through a structured orientation programme, which includes briefings on parliamentary procedures, ethical guidelines, legislative responsibilities, and administrative processes. 

“The orientation also often involves training sessions on effective communication, law-making, and constituency management, ensuring that new MPs are well-prepared to fulfil their roles effectively,” he said.

Venue for the first sitting

Mothapo said the first sitting and onboarding venue has been secured at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

He said Parliament will, in due course, provide the comprehensive process that will be followed in establishing the National Council of Provinces of the seventh democratic Parliament.

SAnews.gov.za


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