South Africa: Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete was in Bangladesh leading a delegation of the South African Parliament to the Assembly of the International Parliamentary Unions (IPU), however recent developments in the country have forced her cut her trip short.
On her arrival at O.R Tambo International, the Speaker addressed the media on the role of her office and procedure here on. The Speaker of the National Assembly being cited as a respondent in the matter between the Official Opposition and the President of the Republic at the Western Cape High Court, in which the Official Opposition sought to interdict the swearing-in of new Members of the Executive. The Court was, amongst others, asked to compel Parliament to urgently schedule a Motion of No Confidence in the President. No finding was made against the Speaker in respect of the relief sought by the Official Opposition.
On Thursday, 30 March, the office of the Speaker received a request from the leader of the Opposition for a motion of no confidence in the President to be scheduled. The letter indicated that the motion be scheduled when Parliament reconvenes. Later on the same day, a similar request was received from the Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). The letter made a further request for the National Assembly to be convened for a special sitting in the week of 3 April to debate and vote on a similar Motion.
On Friday, 31 March, my Office received a further letter, again from the Official Opposition, requesting that the National Assembly resume its business earlier to process the Motion.
What is the procedure here on?
Once such a request is submitted to the Speaker, the Rules outline the following process:
- Assessment of the request to ascertain if it is compliant with the appropriate Rules.
- Consultation with the Chief Whip of the Majority Party and the Leader of Government Business, who is the Deputy President of the Republic.
- Scheduling of the Motion within a reasonable time given the programme of the Assembly.
The National Assembly Members are currently undertaking their constituency responsibilities across the country and are scheduled to return to Parliament from the beginning of May. The consultation process prescribed by the rules is meant to deal with these issues
Once the consultation process is concluded, the Office of the Speaker will communicate to all the parties involved to advise them of the outcome.
Mbete concluded that she is aware of the extreme challenges and sense of anxiety the nation is experiencing; and the expectations South Africans have from institutions such as Parliament to demonstrate decisive leadership. She went on to state that she acknowledges the responsibility that Parliament has to the nation and assure South Africans that this legislative arm of the State must and will rise to the occasion.