The Speaker of the National Assembly is elected to and removed from office in terms of S52 of the Constitution. In terms of this section the:
- House must elect the Speaker from its members during the first House sitting
- The house may remove the Speaker by resolution
- The house must fill the position when it becomes vacant during term
- Chief Justice must preside over the election of the Speaker
The Mandate of The Speaker
The Speaker’s mandate is twofold. It is constitutional and institutional. This mandate is furthermore dual at the National Assembly and Parliamentary level. In both situations, it involves interacting with the following sectors of the global community:
S90 (1)(d) of the Constitution provides that in the event of the unavailability of the President the Speaker of the National Assembly must act as the President until the National Assembly designates one of its other members. S90 generally provides for the appointment of the Acting president but Ss(d) is the only one that goes on to say “until the NA designates one of its other members”. The section can be interpreted to mean that the Speaker is the only one who must act when the post of the President is vacant. Further, the use of the phrase “its other members” means that the person occupying the position of the Speaker cannot be designated as the President. It therefore makes sense that the Constitution dictates that this person as somebody who has no interest in this position therefore objective must act as the President.
The Speaker is the leader of the National Assembly. The National Assembly has authority to legislate on behalf of the state including amending the Constitution, entering into bilateral agreements, treaties and signing international Human Rights Instruments. As a leader of the House, the Speaker has to ensure that these processes are in accordance with Constitution. The Speaker has to ensure that the members of the public participate in Legislation making. She also must ensure that the house oversees and monitors the performance of the executive arm for effective implementation of legislation already passed by the House. The Speaker provides leadership to the National Assembly the House that has constitutional standing:
- To call upon its members to vote on any bill irrespective of where they from in the country
- To elect The President from the National Assembly
- From which The President appoints the Deputy President
- From which The President appoints the Cabinet Members
- That can remove the President from office
- To be consulted by the President before appointing Judicial Officers
As the leader of the House, the Speaker has the responsibility to:
- Provide political leadership & strategic direction to the House
- Exercise impartiality at all times in pursuance of these duties
The impartiality of the Speaker is one of the prime values the integrity of South African Parliament is measured in terms of. The Speaker therefore has the responsibility of:
- Being the custodian of this integrity
- Preserving parliamentary integrity
- The decorum of the members of the House consequently.
- Serving as the Executive Authority for the House
- Ensuring the smooth running of the House business and its Committees.
- Ensuring the development and management of the House programme
- Impartially presides over house meetings & maintaining order; and chairs the strategic parliamentary committee
- Together with NCOP Chairperson jointly presiding over joint sittings
The Speaker and the Chairperson of the NCOP jointly preside over, provide political leadership and ensure the development of the annual joint parliamentary programme framework for the following structures:
- Joint Programme Committee
- Joint Rules Committee
- Parliamentary Oversight Authority
- Executive Committee
- Presiding Officers’ Forum,
- Budget Committee
- Forum of the legislative sector called Speakers’ Forum.
The Speaker’s Forum is a national structure made up of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the NA, the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP; and the Speakers and Deputies from the Provincial Legislatures. The Joint Rules Committee and the Parliamentary Oversight Authority are the highest structures in the hierarchy of authority in Parliament. The Joint Rules Committee has the responsibility to develop rules for the smooth running of Parliament.
The POA on the other hand has the responsibility to develop policy environment suitable for good member performance. It has the responsibility to develop policy that is responsive to the needs of high performing members.
As the leader of the National Assembly the Speaker presides over the meetings of and provides leadership on:
- Programme Committee
- Rules Committee of the National Assembly
- National Assembly Forum
The Speaker represents the Assembly in matters before the courts. She/he is cited as respondent in matters brought against the National Assembly and initiates action against persons on mandate from the Assembly.
The Speaker of the National Assembly is responsible for provision of quality support services to the House. The administrative element of this responsibility has been delegated to the Secretary to Parliament as the Accounting Officer in terms of Parliamentary Services Act, the NA Rules and the New Governance Model. The Speaker has delegated authority to oversee the function of Parliamentary Services to the House Chairperson. He must ensure that in developing and implementing of applicable policies the Parliamentary Services is always in compliance with the laws governing administration including the Parliamentary Services Act, Labour law framework, laws governing public use of finances and parliamentary policies. He is also responsible for the transformation of the Parliamentary Service.
Parliament is expected to participate in global issues. The Speaker represents the institution during signing of international treaties, conventions and declarations that must locate South Africa within its strategic place within the global village.
The Speaker also hosts international delegations to the South African Parliament. She/he represents Parliament in the multilateral and bilateral relations. As a necessary consequence the current Speaker is a member of the following bodies:
- Pan African Parliament (PAP)
- International Board for Information and Communication Technology
- Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF)
- Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
- Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA)
The Constitution allows for the creation of the Deputy Speaker within the Office of The Speaker. The Deputy Speaker presides over the House plenaries. The Deputy Speaker also has the responsibility of deputizing the Speaker. This entails performing the functions of the Speaker if the Speaker for whatever reason is unable to. THe Deputy Speaker has the responsibility of ensuring the smooth running of some parliamentary projects delegated to her and attend to correspondence referred by the Speaker and advise the Speaker accordingly.
The Deputy Speaker also performs other functions as delegated by the Speaker.
As indicated in the introduction, S52 (5) of the Constitution makes provision for the election of more Members of Parliament to assist the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker. This provision in a way recognises that the office of the Speaker is a strategic office for the country which must not only be so positioned but must be so profiled. It is an office that must lead and provide strategic direction to an institution that not only has a responsibility of crafting the laws that must guide the prevention of anarchy for better life for all.
It is an institution must ensure that such laws are implemented. The Speaker has to provide leadership to such a house.
The positions of House Chairpersons were created in terms of S52 (5) of the Constitution to provide the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker with more political human capital support. Consequently the following positions were created:
- House Chairperson: Committees
- House Chairperson: International Relations
- House Chairperson: Internal Arrangements
The resolution establishing these posts prescribed that the Speaker must allocate functions and responsibilities to these House Chairpersons and announces such functions from time to time. The resolution also prescribed that these House Chairpersons must preside at sittings of the House whenever requested to do so by the Speaker.
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON COMMITTEES
Committees are considered the engines of Parliament. The responsibility in respect of committees has been allocated to the House Chairperson of Committees. The House Chairperson is responsible for the co-ordination; scheduling and functioning of all Committees in the National Assembly. This is done by rendering the following:
- Advice and guidance to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker on matters concerning committees.
- Presiding over the House when requested.
- Chairs the Committee of Chairpersons.
- Manage and regulates committee business plan and budgeting processes.
- Manage the scheduling and co-ordination of committee meetings.
- Tabling committee programmes and reports.
- Reporting progress with processing bills
- Provision of agreed levels of support to committees.
- Monitor committee expenditure.
- Assess committee reports.
- Ensure tabling of committee reports
- Facilitate committee training.
- Develop and manage an effective oversight process for committees.
Oversight and accountability are some of the constitutional imperatives for Parliament. Section 55 the National Assembly must provide mechanisms to call all the national executive organs of the state to account and to exercise oversight over the performance of the National Executive. As a necessary consequence Parliament in its five year strategic plan (2004-2009) has made oversight one of its strategic objectives. The Speaker has the institutional responsibility to ensure the realisation of these strategic objectives. The Speaker has delegated this responsibility to the House Chairperson. The House Chairperson has the responsibility to facilitate policy development in this regard, in respect of public participation and education. Accordingly the House Chairperson must ensure implementation and monitoring of these policies for compliance purposes.
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
International participation is a core function of Parliament which over the years has been developing away from the traditional role of merely ratifying international agreements adopted by the executive. The developments in global governance structures have resulted in matters that were previously the domain of the domestic governance now being part of the international arena.
The House Chairperson of International Relations is charged with the responsibilities to ensure that Parliament of the Republic of South Africa plays its rightful role in international relations characterised by the signing international treaties, protocols, agreements and so forth.
Furthermore, as guided by South Africa’s foreign policy, Parliament is expected to continue to participate in various regional, continental and international forums to promote the African agenda and the role South Africa plays in this regard.
Furthermore the House Chairperson is responsible for ensuring that Members ICT needs are recognised and addressed. The House Chairperson has to be fully conversant with the requirements to ensure that the institution is in the 21st century in this regard. The House chairperson has to:
- Ensure Parliament’s ICT strategy is compatible with global trends and best practice.
- Ensure Parliament’s ICT knowledge network is appropriate.
It is through the House Chairperson, that Presiding Officers and the Office of the Speaker come closer to and develop a better understanding of certain challenges of the institution.
The House Chairperson provides an interface between political perspectives and administrative support measures of the institution.
HOUSE CHAIRPERSON INTERNAL ARRANGEMENTS
The Chairperson is responsible for the well being of Members of Parliament. He is responsible for the implementation of policy in respect of current and former MPs, artwork management, exhibitions and library. He oversees the implementation of internal household services to members. He chairs the quarterly meetings of caucus of chairpersons / representatives. He assists Deputy Speaker and co-ordinates the overall training for members. He also assists the Deputy Speaker with the responsibilities of the Board for the Parliamentary Villages Committee. He also assists with other responsibilities that the Office of The Speaker might assign to him.