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Parliament to be dissolved to make way for May 8 elections

Parliament will be dissolved the next few days.
Parliament will be dissolved the next few days.
Image: GCIS

Parliament is to be dissolved in the next few days, albeit only at a technical level.

This is to avoid the risk of this year's general election results, due to take place on May 8, being challenged in court. 

The reason for this is that the date of the elections falls within the mandate of the current parliament, which only expires on May 20.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu says he would on Thursday afternoon table a motion calling for the dissolution of parliament before the election date of May 8.

This is to allow for the election date to be gazetted or proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa by February 26, so that elections can take place within 90 days of dissolving parliament and provincial legislatures in terms of sections 49 and 50 of the constitution.

"You can't have elections during the term of office of the current parliament. According to a (legal) opinion which we now all agree on the term of office is determined by the first sitting of parliament [after elections] and that first sitting happened on the 21st of May 2014.

"Now you will be having this elections on the 8th of May, which means the term (of this parliament) would not have come to an end so you can't have an election when the term has not come to an end. What then do you do, you dissolve parliament so that you can have elections within the term," said Mthembu.

"But in your dissolution of parliament there are certain things that the constitution says. It says that you can dissolve parliament but it remains competent to do all the things it needs to do. it can still pass bills, it can still have committee (meetings) etc so it's a technicality. But if we don't dissolve parliament anybody can go to court after the 8th of May and say that we've had elections illegally, during the term of parliament. So we must avoid that so that we don't give any people body a penalty to reverse any elections outcome after the 8th."

Mthembu said once the house adopts the motion, which has to be adopted by 200-plus members of the 400 MPs, Ramaphosa would be in his powers to dissolve the House and proclaim the date of elections by February 26.

"It will then be proclaimed next week on the 26th ... it's not only parliament because this will be national and provincial elections. So the same process is going to happen in provinces, the constitution gives premiers powers to dissolve legislatures but also the same process that provinces come up with a resolution."

Mthembu said legislators and bureaucrats faced a similar headache in 2004.

He said there had been opposing legal opinions from parliamentary and legal advisers until he received clarity from a senior counsel last night.

All political parties, including the DA, EFF, UDM, IFP and NFP, said they supported the motion when the matter was discussed at a meeting of the national assembly programming committee on Thursday morning.

Mthembu's motion is due to be voted on at 2pm on Thursday.

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