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Overview of South African Parliament

The government of South Africa comprises of two houses of parliament:

  1. Lower House - National Assembly (400 seats)
  2. Upper House - National Council of Provinces (90 seats)

The National Assembly consists of 400 members who are elected every five years. There are no electoral districts, and each party is allocated a number of seats proportionate to the percentage of the votes it receives across the country. Each party will then choose the individual candidates who will represent them in Parliament, nominating those representatives to become Members of Parliament (MPs).

The Cabinet of South Africa is the most senior level of the executive branch of the Government of South Africa. It is made up of the president, the deputy president, and the ministers. The president may select any number of ministers from the members of the National Assembly, and may select no more than two ministers from outside the assembly.

The National Council of Provinces is similar to a Senate and consists of 90 provincial delegates (10 delegates from each of the 9 provinces). Delegates are chosen by the province’s legislature, based on party votes in the province, in the same way the National Assembly MPs are elected. The nominees then become Members of the Provincial Legislature (MPLs). The National Council of Provinces is constitutionally mandated to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government.



Laws in South Africa are made (or changed) by introducing a Bill into Parliament. A Bill must be consistent with the Constitution and properly drafted before it can be introduced. Depending on the type of Bill, both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces can introduce and vote on a Bill. Before a Bill can become law, it must be considered by both Houses of parliament and the public (through a formal review process). Once reviewed, debated and amended, and signed by the President, it becomes an Act of Parliament and a law of the land.

Bills can be introduced that seek to amend the Constitution, which holds a much higher standard of support from Parliament. These Bills can only be signed into law with a two-thirds majority vote in the Lower House and six of the nine provinces in the Upper House. There have been eighteen (18) formal amendments to the Constitution, mostly do with operational efficiency aspects of parliament.

This Bill of Rights (Chapter 2 in the Constitution) is a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. The current Bill of Rights (formally introduced into a post-Apartheid South Africa on 4 February 1997) has had no major amendments to its fundamental principles of unity and inclusion since inception.


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