It’s time for the crucial special sitting of the National Assembly (NA) to elect the new Speaker on Thursday.
The incumbent will replace former Speaker Thandi Modise, who has held the position since 2019, following the sixth democratic elections.
Parliament’s spokesperson, Moloto Mothapo, said the election of the new Speaker will take place at 11 am.
“As provided for 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,” Mothapo said on Wednesday.
Mothapo said in light of the required COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the sitting will happen in two venues in the NA building, including the NA Chamber and Committee Room E249. There will be a live link between the two venues.
“There will be 166 Members of Parliament (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 John 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 four areas, the floor of the NA Chamber will serve as the voting station. Four voting booths have been arranged to enable four Members at a time to cast their votes,” Mothapo explained.
He said the entire voting process is expected to last for about four hours, with at least one hour dedicated to counting the votes.
“As soon as the voting is completed, Judge Hlophe will suspend proceedings to allow for the 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,” Mothapo said.
He said 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
Mothapo said preparations are also in place to ensure the safety of MPs and officials, in compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
“Screening points have been arranged at various entrances of Parliament to ensure swift access,” he said.
NA Speaker’s responsibilities
In terms of the Rules of the House, the NA Speaker has the responsibility of providing political leadership and strategic direction to the NA and exercising 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 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 fulfill 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: the Deputy President; a Minister designated by the President; a Minister who other members of the Cabinet designate; the Speaker of the NA – until the NA designates one of its other members.