New NCOP members sworn in

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Parliament - All 90 members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) were on Thursday sworn in by Chief Justice Pius Langa.

The members, who were sworn in groups of six, in turn re-elected Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu as Chairperson.

Mr Mahlangu's nomination was put forward by the Eastern Cape Province and seconded by the Gauteng Province. He was the only nomination put forward for the post.

Michael Coetzee was elected the Returning Officer and he appointed eight assistant Returning Officers.

A total of 54 of the delegates will be permanent members - six for each of the nine provinces and the remaining 36 will be sent by the provinces to attend NCOP sessions when necessary.

Addressing the House, Mr Mahlangu said there would be "less talk and more action" under the new administration and that the NCOP would continue the work done in the first three Parliaments to increase the pace and tackle the challenges it faced.

"We need to roll up our sleeves, all of us. All hands on deck to make sure that things are happening," said Mr Mahlangu.

The NCOP represents the provinces in Parliament to ensure that their interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government.

It not only provides provinces with a forum in which to engage with the national government on matters concerning areas of shared national and provincial legislative powers, but also oversees the programmes and activities of national government relating to provincial and local government matters.

Mr Mahlangu said that an important task ahead was to harmonise the three spheres of government.

To make an impact, it is important that the NCOP members understand and focus on their mandates, especially in regard to education, health and agriculture and rural development, he said.

Mr Mahlangu urged the NCOP to work closely with the SA Local Government Association, which had 10 seats in the Chamber. "They can help us understand and respond better to challenges facing our people. Local government is at the coal face of service delivery."

He further assured the new permanent delegates that they would be taken through induction step by step so they can hit the ground running.

"I expect that this will be the most challenging but exciting term of this House and we will live up to responsibilities together."

The various premiers, who were elected in their own provincial legislatures on Wednesday, had the opportunity to address the House.

A joint sitting of Parliament, with both the National Assembly and the NCOP, will convene on 3 June for President-elect Mr Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address.

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