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Did you know?

MPs have freedom of speech in Parliament, as long as they keep within the parliamentary rules. They cannot be prosecuted, arrested, imprisoned or be expected to pay damages for anything they say, produce or submit in Parliament or its committees.

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Although ordinary citizens may not submit bills to Parliament, they may lobby MPs or committees to introduce legislation that deals with their concerns.

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Parliament and its committees have the right to ask any institution or person to report to them and may summons any person to appear before them.

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The copy of an Act of Parliament signed by the President is the official version of that Act and is given to the Constitutional Court for safekeeping.

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Because the members of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI) deal with classified or top secret information, it is the only committee that has meetings that are usually closed to the public. The members of the JSCI have to get security clearance from the National Intelligence Agency before they can serve on that committee.

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A joint committee of Parliament monitors improvements in the quality of life and status of women in South Africa.

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A joint committee of Parliament receives submissions on constitutional matters and has to review the Constitution at least once a year.

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Political parties represented in Parliament are entitled to an amount of public money for their political activities. The parties receive the money in proportion to the number of seats they hold.

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The Constitution says a parliamentary committee meeting may not be closed to the public “unless it is reasonable and justifiable to do so in an open and democratic society”.

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It takes 14 months to prepare the annual Budget for its introduction in the National Assembly.

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The seat of Parliament is in Cape Town, but it could be moved by an Act of Parliament supported by a majority of the members of the National Assembly.

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The President may attend meetings of the National Assembly and may speak in the Assembly, but he or she does not have a vote.

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Bills can only be introduced in Parliament by Ministers, Deputy Ministers, parliamentary committees and individual MPs.

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The President is not a member of Parliament. After an MP is elected as President, he or she loses the seat and the vacancy is filled by the next eligible person from the same party.

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The word “Parliament” comes from the French word “parler” which means “to speak”.

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Committees have the power to summons any person to appear before them to give evidence or produce documents. They may ask any person or institution to report to them and may receive petitions, representations or submissions from the public. They play a crucial role in the law-making process.

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Anybody over the age of 18 can participate indirectly in Parliament simply by voting in the elections.

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The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of expression, as long as this freedom is not used as propaganda for war, incitement to violence or the advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion.

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The Bill of Rights guarantees the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions as long as this is done in a peaceful way and the protesters are unarmed.

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Democracy is not an event that occurred in 1994. It is a process to which all of us can contribute by making our voices heard in Parliament, in the provincial legislatures and in broader society.

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The annual Budget determines how much money government departments will receive and has to be approved by Parliament.

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The room in which a House meets to debate is called a “Chamber”.