Air of excitement as Parliament readies to meet

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cape Town - There's an air of excitement and anticipation here this morning, as Parliament's National Assembly (NA) gets ready to meet for the first time to swear in its 400 new members, elect its Presiding Officers and elect the President of the Republic of South Africa.

The first steps towards establishing the country's fourth democratic Parliament will get underway at around 10:30 this morning.

This follows the successful holding of the fourth democratic elections two weeks ago, where millions of South Africans came out in their numbers to vote.

The Members of Parliament, who have been appointed by the different political parties depending on the number of seats they won in the election, are set to be introduced in batches of ten and will be sworn-in, in their language of choice.

Excitement has been building up, in and around Parliament, ahead of Wednesday's sitting, with MPs registering over the last two days.

The swearing-in will be presided over by Chief Justice Pius Langa.

The 400 members are drawn from the candidate lists of political parties that received enough votes in the 2009 General Election to secure seats in the National Assembly.

As is tradition, the area around parliament is alive with activity with drummers and dancers welcoming dignitaries from as early as 07:30 this morning.

Diplomats, guests of the Presidency, guests of leaders of political parties represented in Parliament and guests of those who will be sworn in as MPs are making their way to Parliament to attend the event.

Those allocated to the National Assembly Chamber will need to be seated by 10am, to allow Chief Justice Langa, as the head of the Constitutional Court, to open proceedings at 10.30am.

The members will be introduced and thereafter sworn-in, in batches.

A total of 13 political parties will be represented in the National Assembly. The African National Congress will have 264 seats, the Democratic Alliance will have 67 seats, the Congress of the People will have 30 seats and the Inkatha Freedom Party will have 18 seats.

The Freedom Front Plus, Independent Democrats and the United Democratic Movement will each have four seats, the African Christian Democratic Party will have three seats, the United Christian Democratic Party 2 and the African People's Convention, Azanian People's Organisation, Minority Front and the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania will each have one.

After taking the oath of office, the 400 new members are expected to elect a Speaker and Deputy Speaker before voting for the new President later in the afternoon.

This term, the assembly will be a different place from the one whose term expired after the election. New parties, new faces and some surprise returnees will grace its benches.

The most noticeable of the MPs who are returning after an absence from Parliament, is president-in-waiting Jacob Zuma. He resigned from his seat after former President Thabo Mbeki recalled him as Deputy President.

Winnie Madikizela Mandela has also made a come back together will Max Sisulu.