Election of New National Assembly Speaker

For a soundbite from Parliament Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo, please click: https://iono.fm/e/1087923

It is all systems go for the crucial special sitting of the National Assembly (NA) on 19 August 2021 at 11.00, for the election of the new Speaker of the NA. The new incumbent will replace former Speaker Ms Thandi Modise, who held the position since 2019 following the sixth democratic elections.

As provided in the Constitution, the Chief Justice or a designated Judge must preside over the election of the NA Speaker. Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has designated Judge President John Hlophe of the Western Cape Division of the High Court of South Africa to preside over this special sitting.

The Acting Chief Justice has also approved Rules for the election process.

In light of required COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the NA sitting will happen in two venues in the NA building. These are the NA Chamber (which includes the Members’ seats on the floor of the Chamber, the Officials’ Bay and the Public Gallery) and Committee Room E249. There will be a live link between the two venues.

There will be 166 MPs in the Members’ seats on the floor of the NA Chamber, 127 in the NA Public Gallery, 24 in the Officials' Bay and 92 in the E249 Committee Room.

At the start of the proceedings, Judge President Hlophe will open the sitting and then call for nominations for the position of Speaker from amongst the Members of the NA. If there is more than one nomination, Judge Hlophe will call for the voting process to be conducted by a way of a secret ballot. Although the sitting is divided into 4 areas, the floor of the NA Chamber will serve as the voting station. Four voting booths have been arranged to enable 4 Members at a time to cast their votes.

The entire voting process is expected to last for about 4 hours, with at least 1 hour dedicated to counting the votes.

As soon as the voting is completed, Judge Hlophe will suspend proceedings to allow for counting of the votes. Officials of Parliament, designated as the Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officers, will remove the ballot boxes and all papers from the NA Chamber to a room, to be counted. The votes will be counted in Judge Hlophe’s presence and only he and the designated returning officer and assistants to the returning officer may be present in the room.

Once the votes have been counted, the returning officer must report to Judge Hlophe, informing him of the result of the counting of the votes. On receiving this report, the House will reconvene and Judge Hlophe will announce the result of the election.

The Returning Officer must retain the nomination papers, the used ballot papers and their counterfoils in a sealed packet for at least one year. The sealed packet may not be opened except by order of a court.

After Judge Hlophe announces the outcome of the secret ballot in the sitting, the duly elected Speaker will immediately take over the Presiding chair and address the House.

To read the Rules for the election in full, please click: https://tinyurl.com/3mf7a6t3

In terms of Rules of the House, the NA Speaker has the responsibility of providing political leadership and strategic direction to the NA and to exercise impartiality in carrying out these duties. The NA, as the Constitution specifies, is elected to represent the people and to ensure government by the people under the Constitution. The NA does this by choosing the President, by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, by passing legislation and by scrutinising and overseeing executive action. The NA Speaker may also become Acting President, in terms of the Constitution. This may happen if the President is out of the country or is otherwise unable to fulfil the duties of President, or during a vacancy in the office of President. Then, an office bearer in the following order may be designated to act as President: (a) the Deputy President, (b) a Minister designated by the President, (c) a Minister who other members of the Cabinet designate, (d) the Speaker of the NA – until the NA designates one of its other members.

Preparations are in place to ensure the safety of Members of Parliament and officials, in compliance with COVID-19 regulations. Screening points have been arranged at various entrances of Parliament to ensure swift access.