Parliament of South Africa

Parliament of South Africa

Infobox Parliament
name = Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
coa_pic =
session_room = Parliament WC ZA.jpg
house_type = Bicameral
houses = National Assembly National Council of Provinces
leader1_type = Speaker of the National Assembly
leader1 = Baleka Mbete MP
election1 = April 14, 2004
leader2_type = Speaker of the National Council of Provinces
leader2 = M. J. Mahlangu
election2 = April 14, 2004
members = 490 (400 NA, 90 NCOP)
p_groups = African National Congress
Democratic Alliance
Independent Democrats
Inkatha Freedom Party
Freedom Front Plus
African Christian Democratic Party
National Democratic Convention
Minority Front
United Democratic Movement
United Christian Democratic Party
Azanian People's Organisation
Pan Africanist Congress of Azania
election3 = April 14, 2004
meeting_place = Houses of Parliament, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
website =
The Parliament of South Africa is South Africa's legislature and is composed of the National Assembly of South Africa and the National Council of Provinces.

It has undergone many transformations as a result of the country's tumultuous history. From 1910 to 1994, it was elected mainly by South Africa's white minority, before the first democratic elections were held in 1994.

Under the 1994 Constitution, the Parliament, consisting of a Senate and a National Assembly, was also the 'Constitution-Making Body' (CMB). This was a compromise between the African National Congress, which wanted a Constituent Assembly to draft the constitution, and the other parties, who wanted constitutional principles agreed first, before the final constitution was drafted and adopted in 1997. Under the 1997 Constitution, the Senate, elected by members of each of the nine Provincial Legislatures, was replaced by a National Council of Provinces, or (NCoP), which retained the former Senate's membership, although changed its legislative and constitutional role. The National Assembly remained unchanged as the primary legislative chamber, with the President of South Africa being the leader of the largest party in that house.


The Union

When the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, the Parliament was bicameral and consisted of the Senate and the House of Assembly (known in Afrikaans as the "Volksraad"). The Senate was indirectly elected by members of each of the four Provincial Councils, and the members of the House of Assembly being elected mainly by whites.

outh West Africa

In 1948, white residents of the United Nations mandated territory of South West Africa became eligible to vote in South African elections, despite the territory never being formally incorporated into the Union. Representation for the territory in the South African Parliament was abolished in 1981.


When the National Party came to power on a policy of racial segregation or apartheid in 1948, it began to push through controversial legislation to deprive non-whites of what few political rights they already had.

In 1959, the government of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd passed legislation to strip the mixed race Coloureds of their voting rights. In order to amend entrenched clauses in the Union's Constitution, there needed to be a two-thirds majority in favour in both Houses of Parliament.

As the National party did not have a majority in the Senate, Verwoerd instead increased its membership, appointing a large number of Senators who duly voted for the changes. In anticipation of a referendum on making South Africa a republic, Verwoerd also lowered the voting age for whites from 21 to 18. When a referendum was held on October 5, 1960, 52 per cent of whites voted in favour of a republic.

The creation of the Republic of South Africa did not change the role of the Parliament, which remained whites-only, and dominated by the National Party, although the mace used in the House of Assembly, featuring a British Crown, was replaced by a new South African design, and portraits of the British Royal Family were removed.

Tricameral Parliament

:"Main article: Tricameral Parliament"

In 1980, Prime Minister P.W. Botha announced plans for constitutional reform. The Senate was abolished in 1981, and a new 'President's Council' was appointed to advise on a new Constitution, under which Coloureds and Asians would be represented. The Council was chaired by a Vice State President, Mr Alwyn Schlebusch, who would be the only person to hold the post. Its membership was composed of Whites, Coloureds and Asians (including a Chinese member as well as Indians), but the Black majority had no representation at all.

Under the 1984 Constitution, a Tricameral Parliament was established: the House of Assembly was elected by whites, the House of Representatives was elected by mixed-race Coloureds, and the House of Delegates was elected by Asians. Each House had a Ministers' Council, responsible for 'own affairs', but the white-controlled President's Council could override any decisions made by Coloured and Asian leaders.

The black majority were still disenfranchised, and the new system lacked legitimacy even among the Coloureds and Asians, many of whom boycotted elections. In 1994, one of the last pieces of legislation passed by the Tricameral Parliament was Act 200 of 1994 – the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa – before the first non-racial elections were held on April 27 that year.

Cape Town or Pretoria?

Parliament sits in Cape Town, even though the seat of government is in Pretoria. This dates back to the foundation of the Union, when there was disagreement between the four provinces as to which city would be the national capital. As a compromise, Cape Town was designated the "legislative" capital, Bloemfontein the "judicial" capital, Pietermaritzburg the "archival", and Pretoria the "administrative" capital. The African National Congress (ANC) government has proposed moving Parliament to Pretoria, arguing that the present arrangement is cumbersome as ministers, civil servants and diplomats must move back and forth when Parliament is in session. However, many Capetonians have spoken out against such a move, accusing the ANC of trying to centralise power. Under the Constitution, there is provision for Parliament meeting outside Cape Town should the Speaker of the National Assembly see fit.

List of Parliaments

Parliaments of the Union

* 1st South African Parliament (1910 - 1915)
* 2nd South African Parliament (1915 - 1920)
* 3rd South African Parliament (1920 - 1921)
* 4th South African Parliament (1921 - 1924)
* 5th South African Parliament (1924 - 1929)
* 6th South African Parliament (1929 - 1933)
* 7th South African Parliament (1933 - 1938)
* 8th South African Parliament (1938 - 1943)
* 9th South African Parliament (1943 - 1948)
* 10th South African Parliament (1948 - 1953)
* 11th South African Parliament (1953 - 1958)
* 12th South African Parliament (1958 - 1961)

Parliaments of the Republic

* 13th South African Parliament (1961 - 1966)
* 14th South African Parliament (1966 - 1970)
* 15th South African Parliament (1970 - 1974)
* 16th South African Parliament (1974 - 1977)
* 17th South African Parliament (1977 - 1981)
* 18th South African Parliament (1981 - 1984)
* 19th South African Parliament (1984 - 1987)
* 20th South African Parliament (1987 - 1989)
* 21st South African Parliament (1989 - 1994)
* 22nd South African Parliament (1994 - 1999)
* 23rd South African Parliament (1999 - 2004)
* 24th South African Parliament (2004 - 2009)

External links

* [ Parliament of South Africa]

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