Your guide to the swearing in of MPs and the election of the president

2019-05-19 14:25
The National Assembly of Parliament.

The National Assembly of Parliament.

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On Wednesday South Africa's newly elected MPs will be sworn in, a president will be elected, and a speaker and deputy speaker will also be elected. This is how the event will unfold in the National Assembly.

Swearing in of MPs:

The first order of business will be the swearing in of MPs. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng will preside over this. They will be called to stand in front of the podium in groups, and with a raised right hand say the oath in the national language of their choice. The MPs also have a choice to swear an oath before God or make a solemn affirmation, depending on their religious beliefs.

The oath for MPs is as follows in English: "I, [Name of MP], swear/solemnly affirm that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, respect and uphold the Constitution and all other law of the Republic; and I solemnly promise to perform my functions as a member of the National Assembly to the best of my ability."

In the case of an oath, "So help me God," will be said at the end.

This might be an opportune time for a reminder on what the Constitution says about the National Assembly's role in Section 42(3): "The National Assembly is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people under the Constitution. It does this by choosing the President, by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, by passing legislation and by scrutinizing and overseeing executive action."

Election of the speaker:

A MP must nominate another member for the position of speaker. This nomination must be seconded by another MP. 

The person who is nominated must indicate acceptance of the nomination by signing either the nomination form or any other form of written confirmation.

The presiding officer, in this case the Chief Justice, must announce the names of the persons who have been nominated as candidates, but may not permit any debate.

If only one candidate is nominated, the Chief Justice must declare that candidate elected.

If more than one person is nominated, as happened in 2014 when the DA also nominated a candidate for speaker, a vote must be taken at the meeting by secret ballot. Each member present may cast only one vote. You'll see voting booths and ballot boxes on the chamber floor if you watch the proceedings. The presiding officer must declare the candidate who receives a majority of the votes as the elected speaker.

Election of the deputy speaker:

This follows the same process, except that the freshly elected speaker will be the presiding officer.

Election of the president:

The Chief Justice will again preside over the election of the president, as prescribed by the Consitution. This will also follow the same procedure as that of the election of the speaker: nomination, secondment, and an election if there is more than one candidate.

Last year, when Cyril Ramaphosa was elected president, he was the only candidate nominated.

Once elected, the president ceases to be a Member of Parliament. The next person on the president's party list will take the seat vacated by the president-elect. 

When elected President, a person ceases to be a member of the National Assembly. The Constitution states that within five days the president-elect must assume office by swearing or affirming faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution.

The president-elect will not take the oath or affirmation at Parliament on Wednesday. This will be done on Saturday at the R120m inauguration at Loftus Versfeld. 

The oath or affirmation the president-elect will take is the following:

"In the presence of everyone assembled here, and in full realisation of the high calling I assume as President of the Republic of South Africa, I, [name of president-elect], swear/solemnly affirm that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, and will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other law of the Republic; and I solemnly and sincerely promise that I will always promote all that will advance the Republic, and oppose all that may harm it; protect and promote the rights of all South Africans; discharge my duties with all my strength and talents to the best of my knowledge and ability and true to the dictates of my conscience; do justice to all; and devote myself to the well-being of the Republic and all of its people."

In the case of an oath, it will conclude with: "So help me God."

Cabinet

Ministers, and deputy ministers, are not elected by Parliament, or confirmed by Parliament (as happens in the US), but their appointment is "the prerogative of the president", as former president Jacob Zuma often reminded his counterparts.

The president is allowed to pick two ministers who are not Members of Parliament. Unlike the president, the MPs appointed to cabinet do not cease to be MPs.

Similarly, the deputy president is a member of the Cabinet and is therefore appointed by the president.  

Leader of the opposition, whips, committee chairpersons, caucus leaders

Parties will appoint the whips and caucus chairpersons through their own internal processes. 

The Constitution states that the National Assembly must provide for the "recognition of the leader of the largest opposition party in the Assembly as the Leader of the Opposition".

The governing party will appoint which of its MPs will be the chairpersons of the National Assembly's committees. However, the chairperson of the watchdog Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) is handed to an opposition MP.

In the fifth Parliament, this responsibility fell to the APC's Themba Godi. The APC did not make it to Parliament in this election, so a new Scopa-chairperson will be announced in due course. 

Read more on:    mogoeng mogoeng  |  elections 2019
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