The National Assembly is expected to elect a new Speaker on Thursday. This, after the position became vacant following the appointment of former Speaker Thandi Modise by President Cyril Ramaphosa into his cabinet.
The African National Congress (ANC) nominated former Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to succeed Modise.
However, some opposition parties have indicated that they are going to challenge Mapisa-Nqakula by nominating their own candidates.
The Constitution requires members of the National Assembly to be physically present in the House when electing a Speaker, and the election must be presided over by the Chief Justice or a judge designated by the Chief Justice.
If only one candidate is nominated, then such a candidate may be announced as having been duly elected. However, if more than one candidate is nominated then members of parliament (MPs) must vote by secret ballot.
The process could take up to two hours which is not an ideal situation in the light of COVID-19.
This has led to some MPs exploring changing the rules to allow for nominations to be made beforehand to reduce the time spent under the same roof.
Mapisa-Nqakula faces a challenge from opposition parties
However, Secretary to the National Assembly Masibulele Xaso, says this is not possible.
Xaso says, “I want to suggest that the input be made in respect of the future not the one anticipated, that proposals be made in respect of casual vacancies – mid-term, like the one that is coming…”
“You can only elect people sworn in, so you can’t nominate before. So, the swearing in and nomination and election must take place ahead of time,” says Xaso.
Mapisa-Nqakula is a veteran of the ANC’s disbanded military wing – Umkhonto WeSizwe and has held various positions within the ANC structures including as the President of the Women’s League.
She was also the Chief Whip of the ANC in parliament before she was elevated into the National Executive.
But, it is while serving as defence minister that Mapisa-Nqakula was mired in controversies. She has been accused of smuggling a foreign national into the country, and giving a lift to an ANC delegation to Zimbabwe in a military jet.
She recently found herself embroiled in another controversy after she publicly contradicted the Commander in Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), President Cyril Ramaphosa on the characterisation of the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Mapisa-Nqakula nominated for National Assembly speaker position
SANDF Union spokesperson Pikkie Greeff says, “Now, some opposition parties say they’re going to oppose her nomination as the Speaker.”
Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip Natasha Mazzone and Freedom Front Plus (FF+) Chief Whip Dr Corne Mulder the position of the Speaker will definitely be contested.
“There will definitely be contestation for Speaker, we would be naive not to realise that. I think the chances we have an election, not one nomination only, is about 110%. As far as I am concerned, the staff can prepare for an election,” they said.
Despite possible challenge from the opposition benches, Mapisa-Nqakula is poised to emerge victoriously due to the ANC’s majority seats in the National Assembly.