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.
The role of Parliament, as the representative of the people, is to promote and oversee adherence to the values of human dignity, equality, non-racialism, nonsexism, and all other rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and to oversee the implementation of constitutional imperatives. Through legislative and other measures, Parliament also ensures that the independence, impartiality, accessibility and effectiveness of the judiciary and other state institutions is upheld.
The mandate of Parliament is based on the provisions of chapter 4 of the Constitution, which establishes Parliament and sets out the functions it performs. Parliament is elected to represent the people, ensure government by the people under the Constitution, and represent the interests of provinces in the national sphere of government. Members of Parliament elect the president, provide a national forum for the public consideration of issues, pass legislation, and scrutinise and oversee executive action.
Parliament’s policy priorities set out long-term policy and outcomes. These are aligned with the priorities and outcomes of the National Development Plan. To ensure that these outcomes are met over feasible timeframes, five-year, 10-year and 15-year milestones have been set.
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 official governmental 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 is mandated to represent the provinces to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of Government.
The NCOP consists of 90 provincial delegates (10 delegates for each of the nine provinces). A provincial delegation consists of six permanent delegates and four special delegates. The permanent delegates, who are appointed by the nine provincial legislatures, are based at Parliament in Cape Town.
The four special delegates consist of the Premier of the province and three special delegates, assigned by each province from Members of the Provincial Legislature and rotated depending on the subject matter being considered by the NCOP.
The Premier of a province is the head of the province’s delegation but he or she can assign any other delegate to lead the delegation in his or her absence.
Organised local government is also represented in the NCOP through the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). SALGA is entitled to 10 representatives who may participate in the debates and other activities of the NCOP, but may not vote.
The NCOP consists of 54 permanent members and 36 special delegates, and represents provincial interests in the national sphere of government.
The NCOP must have a mandate from the provinces before it can make certain decisions.
Special calculations of the popular vote in elections make sure that minority interests are represented in each province’s delegation to the NCOP.
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 2017/18