The rules of the NA were revised after 1996 with the adoption of the Constitution but this revision was limited. In 2012, the NA resolved to conduct a comprehensive review of these rules.
The new rules include many positive and progressive features which will strengthen the legislative arm of the State. For a start, the National Assembly has experienced a relatively high turnover of members since 1994, with new and diverse parties coming into the House. This has meant that much institutional knowledge has been lost. The new rules therefore codify many of the best parliamentary conventions and practices which have developed over time; making the procedures easier to access, understand and implement. At the same time rules that were deemed inconsistent with the Constitution and the law have been removed.
Second, the new rules enhance the ability of the National Assembly to discuss and respond to matters of public interest; a key constitutional function of Parliament. This has been achieved through the introduction of mini-plenaries, special substructures of the House. Critically, these structures, which can meet concurrently, will allow more time for debate and increase their spontaneity.
The new rules also make it compulsory for the House to conduct both first and second reading debates on legislation, thereby ensuring that the membership of the House and the public are informed about Parliament's legislative agenda.
The new rules also facilitate order, decorum and discipline. It is common knowledge that the dignity of Parliament and its status in society has come under scrutiny. To address this challenge the rules include procedures governing reflections on members; disorderly conduct; members' leave and points of order.
Fourth, the new rules enhance parliamentary oversight over the executive. The rules now provide that oral questions to the executive will take three hours every question day instead of two.
On behalf of the Presiding officers, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete wishes to thank all the members who participated in this historic process. "We wish to thank the members of the National Assembly Rules Committee, the whips and all political parties who have worked to transform the procedures of the Assembly and thereby further entrenched democracy in South Africa."
ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPEAKER OF THE NA