All eyes on Union Buildings

Friday, May 23, 2014

After successfully staging its fifth democratic elections, South Africa will tomorrow witness the inauguration of President-elect Jacob Zuma, who will be sworn in for a second term in office at a ceremony to be held at the newly-named Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre, at the Union Buildings.

With the county celebrating 20 years of democracy, tomorrow’s inauguration represents a moment of historical significance, writes Nthambeleni Gabara.

Not only has the country managed to have five presidential inaugurations in only 20 years, the large turnout in the recent elections, has shown that South Africans have faith in the country’s democracy.  

President-elect Zuma’s assumption of the presidency for the second term caps a remarkable political rise for a man first elected to the Kwazulu-Natal legislature as an MEC back in 1994. He went on to become the country’s Deputy President in 2005, before he was elevated to the highest office in the land, five years ago.

On Wednesday, the majority Members of Parliament elected him to serve for another five years as President with former trade-unionist and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy. The Constitution requires that the President after being elected, shall assume office within five days.

Minister in the Presidency for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane, this week said preparations have been under way for the past few weeks to ensure the inauguration tomorrow is successful. 

Thousands of ordinary South Africans are expected to gather at the Union Buildings’ Southern lawns to witness the swearing in of the President by Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

After taking his oath shortly after 11 am, the President will deliver his inaugural address to South Africans which will signal the beginning of his five-year administration.  Soon after, as early as in the first two days following, he will elect his new team of ministers. His first State of the Nation Address in the new administration will follow in the weeks therafter, during which he is expected to set in motion the new government’s programme for the next five years.

All the nine provincial legislatures have also sworn in Members of their respective provincial legislators, elected their Premiers as well as speakers.

A total of 29 political parties contested the 2014 General Elections, but only 13 have received sufficient votes to secure seats in Parliament. The youngest MP in the new parliament is 24-years-old. 

Know your parliament

The fifth Parliament is expected to establish its committees in the weeks following the first sittings of the National Assembly and the NCOP.

Besides portfolio and select committees, there are ones which are not limited to specific government portfolios. The Standing Committee on Finance and the Standing Committee on Appropriations are two such committees.

These were committees established by the fourth democratic Parliament and have enhanced Parliament's examination of the national budget.

Their establishment was followed by the adoption of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act.

Another committee whose work cuts across departments is the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Its role is to examine whether government spending has resulted in value for money in terms of the policies and programmes for which the money was allocated.

Among the first set of Bills to be debated by the fifth democratic Parliament will be the Budget Framework and the Appropriations Bill. These are items coming from the national budget, which the Finance Minister presented to the fourth democratic Parliament in February this year.