Parliament is the legislative authority of South Africa and has the power to make laws for the country in accordance with the Constitution.
It consists of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Parliamentary sittings are open to the public. Since 1994, a number of steps have been taken to make it more accessible and to motivate and facilitate public participation in the legislative process. The website www.parliament.gov.za encourages comment and feedback from the public.
The National Assembly is elected to represent the people and to ensure democratic governance as required by the Constitution. It does this by electing the President, providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, passing legislation and scrutinising and overseeing executive action.
The National Assembly consists of no fewer than 350 and no more than 400 members elected through a system of proportional representation.
The National Assembly, which is elected for a term of five years, is presided over by the speaker, assisted by the deputy speaker.
The NCOP consists of 54 permanent members and 36 special delegates, and represents provincial interests in the national sphere of government.
Delegations consist of 10 representatives from each province. The NCOP must have a mandate from the provinces before it can make certain decisions.
These 10 representatives include six permanent members, and four special delegates. Special calculations of the popular vote in elections make sure that minority interests are represented in each province’s delegation to the NCOP.
Local government representatives are allowed to debate in the NCOP but not vote - 10 part-time members represent the three different types of municipality. The South African Local Government Association also takes part in the NCOP.
It cannot, however, initiate a Bill concerning money, which is the prerogative of the Minister of Finance.
The NCOP Online links Parliament to the provincial legislatures and local government associations. It also provides information on draft legislation and allows the public to make electronic submissions.
The NCOP came into existence in February 1997.
Source: South Africa Yearbook 2015/16