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Last week, South Africa held its fifth democratic election. Below are answers to five key questions on the current status of Parliament and lawmaking.

  1. Is Parliament operational?

Not yet. The newly-elected National Assembly (NA) and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will hold their first sittings on 21 May and 22 May respectively.

  • The results of the 7 May elections indicate which parties obtained enough votes to secure representation in the NA and the extent of that representation. The names of NA members-elect are expected to be finalised this week.
  • The declaration of election results will indicate party strength in Provincial Legislatures and this will determine the number of delegates to which parties are entitled in the NCOP. Provincial Legislatures will appoint Permanent Delegates to the NCOP and will also elect their Premiers and Provincial Speakers.
  • The term of the last NA expired on 6 May, hours before the election. Both the NA and NCOP held their last sittings in March.

What happens next?

At its first sitting of the NA on 21 May, MPs will elect the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the NA, as well as the President of South Africa.

At the first sitting of the NCOP on 22 May, Permanent Delegates of the NCOP will elect the NCOP Chairperson (the NCOP equivalent of the Speaker), two Deputy Chairpersons and other Presiding Officers.

Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, or his designate, will call the first sitting of both the NA and NCOP and will preside over the election of the President of the Republic, the NA Speaker and the NCOP Chairperson.

  1. What is the current status of the President and Cabinet?

President Zuma and his Cabinet remain in office. According to the Constitution, the President’s term of office begins on assuming office and ends when the next elected President assumes office. The Constitution also provides for the Deputy President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers to remain competent to function until the person elected President by the next NA assumes office.

4.  When will Parliament resume working on legislation?

To Be Decided. Parliamentary Committees will be formed sometime after 21 May, following the swearing in of MPs. Committees will begin work on legislation after electing their respective chairpersons. The consideration of legislation enjoys priority over other parliamentary business.

  • Traditionally, Parliament goes into a month’s recent beginning mid to late-June. In this election year, decisions regarding parliamentary terms and recess periods will be taken once Parliament’s new Joint Programme Committee (JPC), comprising members of both the NA and NCOP, is formed. The JPC will lay down a parliamentary programme framework for the remainder of the year, which will indicate whether the new Parliament will begin work on legislation immediately, or head into recess.
  • MPs are scheduled to participate in an induction period in the week of 3 June, sometime after which the JPC will be established.

5. What happened to bills that were not passed before the 7 May Elections?

Technically, they have lapsed. According to the Rules of Parliament, unless otherwise decided, legislation not passed by Parliament prior to an election will lapse. In practice, the new Parliament will reconsider all bills tabled with the Fourth Parliament and decide whether or not to proceed with them.

Published courtesy of: BUSA

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