Provincial Legislatures

Each province has a legislature, the size of which varies depending on the population levels in the province. According to the Constitution the minimum size of a Legislature is 30 members and the maximum size is 80 members. Members are elected from provincial lists on the basis of the number of votes received by a political party.

A provincial legislature is responsible for passing the laws for its province as defined in the Constitution. These laws are only effective for that particular province. Parliament may intervene and change these laws if they undermine national security, economic unity, national standards or the interests of another province.

Like Parliament, provincial legislatures have the responsibility of calling their Members of their Executive to account for their actions.

Office bearers of legislative institutions

Provincial Legislatures

Like Parliament, office bearers in the provincial legislatures comprise - the Speaker - the Deputy Speaker, - the Leader of the House, - Chief Whips (representing the majority party and largest minority party) - the Whips, - the Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson of Committees, and - the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Functions and responsibilities of office bearers

Presiding officers

The Speaker in provincial legislatures is the person who presides over the proceedings of the House and is responsible for running the legislature subject to the policy laid down by the Joint Rules Committee of Parliament.

These presiding officer and deputy are elected from amongst the Members of each legislature and are expected to be fair and impartial in the execution of their duties. They are responsible for:

  • presiding over meetings in the Legislature and taking charge of debates, making sure that Members can participate freely while keeping to the rules;
  • interpreting the rules. S/he may also give a ruling or make a rule on a matter for which there is no provision in the current parliamentary rules;
  • regulating public access to meetings and ordering members of the public to leave the House, where necessary;
  • censuring Members, ordering them to leave the House and even ordering the offending Member to leave the precincts of Parliament until they have decided what action to take against the Member. In the event of serious disorder at a sitting, they may suspend the proceedings or adjourn the sitting.

Chairperson of Committees

The Chairperson of Committees is appointed by the Members of a legislature. His/her primary functions are

  • to preside at meetings of the Committee of Chairpersons;
  • to approve the budget and expenditure of Committees, in consultation with the Chief Whip of the majority party; and
  • to preside at the sittings of a House when the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are not available.

Leader of Government Business (Leader of the House)

In provincial Legislatures, the Leader of Government Business is referred to as the Leader of the House and is appointed by the Premier. The Leader of the House serves as a link between the Executive Council and its Legislature and s/he performs the same functions as the Leader of Government Business.

Chief Whips and Party Whips

Whips contribute to the smooth running of a legislature. At the same time whips represent their party's interests and ensure the discipline of their members and the effective functioning of their party, both within the legislature as well as within the organisation. There are two Chief Whips who are the official office bearers. One represents the majority party and the other is from the largest minority party. The other parties have Senior Whips assisted by a number of other whips. The Chief Whips are formally appointed by the Speaker, based on the recommendations of the respective political parties.

The Chief Whip of the majority party, in consultation with the Chief Whip of the largest minority party, is responsible for the detailed arrangement of the legislative business, that is, the programme of the Legislature. S/he is also responsible for approving the budget of Committees in consultation with the Chairperson of Committees.


Much of the work of legislatures is delegated to Committees. This means that

  • issues can be debated in more detail than is possible in a full sittings of the House;
  • public hearings can be held on specific matters;
  • Members assigned to a Committee can develop expertise and in-depth knowledge of the field covered by that Committee; and
  • internal arrangements, proceedings and procedures for the legislature can be devised and monitored.

The responsibilities of Committees include:

  • initiating legislation (rules for which have recently been established);
  • debating and amending legislation and policy documents;
  • monitoring the departments they oversee;
  • investigating and making recommendations on the budgets of these departments;
  • holding public hearings or asking for submissions on important bills; and
  • investigating any function of the executive and its department, which includes summoning ministers and any department official to appear before them to supply information;

Committees do not take decisions but make recommendations to the legislature. Usually these recommendations are expressed in the form of reports to the House.

Each Committee elects its own chairperson. Each Committee is supported administratively by a Committee secretary/clerk.

Committees in the provincial legislatures

Provincial legislatures also have committees. Like the national portfolio committees, they shadow the area of responsibilities of Member of Executive Council (MECs) - but unlike the national committees, there is not always one committee per MEC or government department/ issue.

Legislative Authority

Legislative authority is vested nationally in Parliament (section 44 of the Constitution). Provincial legislative authority is vested in the provincial legislatures (section 104 of the Constitution).


Provincial legislatures are bound only by the national Constitution and by their own Constitution, if they have one.

The legislative authority of provinces as vested in provincial Legislatures gives them the power - to pass a constitution for the province, or amend any constitution passed by it (sections 142 and 143 of the Constitution); - to pass legislation for the province with regard to any matters - within a functional area listed in Schedule 4 and Schedule 5 of the Constitution; - outside those functional areas that are expressly assigned to the province by national legislation; and - for which a provision of the Constitution envisages the enactment of provincial legislation; and - to assign any of its legislative powers to a Municipal Council in that province.

A provincial legislature can, with a two-thirds majority, request Parliament to change the name of that province.

A provincial legislature may recommend to the National Assembly legislation concerning

  • any matter outside the authority of that legislature; and
  • where an Act of Parliament prevails over a provincial law.