10 August 2017

South Africa: How to Dissolve the National Assembly

Photo: allafrica.com
Left: Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane. Right: President Jacob Zuma.

The DA on Wednesday announced that it intends to table a motion to dissolve Parliament on Thursday.

This will be a first for a democratic South Africa, and if it succeeds, it will necessitate an early national election.

The process to dissolve the National Assembly is set out in Section 50 of the Constitution, which states that the president must dissolve the National Assembly if the National Assembly has adopted a resolution to dissolve with a supporting vote of the majority of its members.

This would require, like a motion of no confidence, that 201 MPs support the motion if each of the 400 seats in the National Assembly are filled.

This can only be done three years since the previous election.

If a motion in terms of Section 50 succeeds, Section 49 of the Constitution kicks into motion.

This section requires the president, by proclamation, call and set dates for an election, which must be held within 90 days of the date the National Assembly has been dissolved.

If the result of an election of the National Assembly is not declared within the prescribed time - seven days according to the Electoral Act - or if the result is set aside by a court, the president must again call for an election.

The National Assembly remains competent to function from the time it is dissolved or its term expires, until the day before the first day of polling for the next assembly.

If the motion were to succeed, it seems unlikely that it would affect Parliament's other house, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

The NCOP members are determined by the results of provincial elections.

For provincial elections to be held early, a provincial legislature will have to be dissolved in a process similar to that of the National Assembly described above.


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