Parliament, Friday, 12 April 2024 â€“ In a landmark move, the National Assembly (NA) has adopted a transformative amendment to the House's Rules and Guidelines for Petitions. This important amendment heralds a new era of direct public engagement in parliamentary processes.

Previously, public petitions required a Member of Parliament to act as an intermediary between the House and a member of the public. Also, before this amendment, the provision allowing members of the public to submit petitions directly, without Members of Parliament as intermediaries, was exclusive to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Now, this significant reform empowers members of the public to directly approach Parliament, fostering a more open, transparent, and responsive legislative body.

Crucially, this amendment is not merely a procedural change but represents a profound commitment and effective mechanism for swift and direct interventions in addressing service delivery challenges and other public concerns relating to government’s obligations to the public.
A notable and key development in the petitions process is the introduction of a Petitions Framework that applies to both Houses of Parliament. The Framework creates a definitive period of about three months for processing each petition, ensuring expeditious and efficient responses to the needs of the people of South Africa.

This responsiveness underlines Parliament's endeavour to continuously enhance its oversight and accountability interventions, ensuring deeper engagement with the issues affecting its citizens and their quality of life.
By allowing direct submission of petitions, subject to specific conditions, the NA is dismantling barriers to democratic participation, fostering a more transparent and accessible legislative process.

Petition Types and Requirements

The Constitution permits the National Assembly and its committees to receive petitions from individuals and institutions. With the growing volume of petitions, these amendments aim to optimise the handling of these crucial documents.
A petition may be:

  • A single petition: A personal submission regarding a specific issue.
  • A collective petition: A joint submission with multiple signatures on a common issue.
  • A multiple/group/mass petition: Submissions from individuals or groups on the same matter.
  • An associated petition: Submissions from an association or its representative on a particular issue.

Petitions must conform to the format prescribed by the Speaker and align with the guidelines of the Rules Committee, specifically adhering to Assembly Rules 345 to 347. These guidelines cover language, signing, submission, clarity, decorum, and provision of supporting documentation.

Ensuring Appropriate, Effective Petitioning

Petitions should seek action within the ambit of the House, the national government, or a Minister's purview. They must not repeat previously considered matters unless new, impactful information arises. Petitions should not interfere with ongoing legal proceedings or seek to overturn legal judgments. They must steer clear of matters currently under scrutiny in the National Assembly.
This amendment redefines the role of the National Assembly, underscoring its evolution into an activist, people-oriented body. It ensures that the voice of the public is not just heard but promptly acted upon, symbolising a new era in democratic participation.

Enquiries: Moloto Mothapo