Chapter 4


This chapter sets out the powers of Parliament, which is the body that directly represents the people and the arm of the government which passes new, and amends existing, national laws. It consists of the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Chapter 4 contains provisions on:

The National Assembly

  • The NA consists of between 350 and 400 members of Parliament. The people of South Africa vote in general elections for people to represent them in the Assembly. 
  • Members of the NA must elect a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker and institute management procedures to facilitate the proceedings of the NA. 
  • The NA may amend the Constitution and initiate legislation or consider, pass, amend or reject any legislation submitted to it. 
  • Unless the Constitution states otherwise, a majority of the members must be present to vote on a bill, and a simple majority of those present would pass the bill into law. 
  • Every citizen who is qualified to vote for the NA is eligible to be a member of the NA.

The National Council of Provinces

  • The NCOP represents provincial and local government interests in Parliament. It works with the NA to make and pass new laws and to change old laws. The NCOP has 90 members. Each province sends ten delegates to the NCOP.
  • The NCOP is one of the most innovative aspects of the democratic Parliament. It replaces the Senate, a body in the apartheid Parliament which previously brought little value to the legislative process, with a body of people from the provinces who bring diverse provincial perspectives to the debates. 
  • Its intention is to enrich the law-making process and the quality of the law.

How Legislation is Initiated

  • The legislative process now allows for bills to be introduced in either the NA or the NCOP but these bills must be passed by both bodies. 
  • The NCOP can introduce a bill if it is about something that falls under the powers of the provinces. 
  • Bills can also be introduced to Parliament by a Cabinet member, a parliamentary committee, or a member of the NA. 
  • These laws must not conflict with the Constitution.

General Rules

  • Members of Parliament (MPs) cannot be paid state employees and must be financially solvent, and of sound mind. 
  • MPs have freedom of speech privileges within the NA, subject to the Assembly’s rules and orders. 
  • Section 59 states that Parliament has to conduct its business in an open manner so that the public can attend its sittings and committee meetings. References to the need to keep the legislative process open to the public, are scattered throughout the Constitution.
  • Schedule 2 of the Constitution provides the oath and affirmations that public office bearers such as the President, including members of Parliament, have to take which is:

I, A.B., swear/solemnly affirm that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa and will obey, respect and uphold the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic; and I solemnly promise to perform my functions as a member of the National Assembly/permanent delegate to the National Council of Provinces/member of the legislature of the province of C.D. to the best of my ability. (In the case of an oath: So help me God.)

Oath and Affirmation

Public Office Bearers


Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994