South Africa’s National Assembly on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution to dissolve parliament.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) Chief Whip, Mr Jackson Mthembu, mooted the motion.
Mr Mthembu said South Africa could not hold elections during the term of office of the current parliament.
“We will be having the 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,” explained Mr Mthembu.
In a statement released shortly after the National Assembly voted on the matter, ANC caucus spokesperson Nonceba Mhlauli said the resolution was informed by the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this month that the national and provincial government elections will take place on May 8.
“Due to the fact that the Fifth Parliament was convened on 21 May 2014, its five-year term officially ends on 20 May 2019. Therefore, the elections date of 8 May 2019 falls within the active five-year term of the Fifth Parliament. Parliament therefore has to be dissolved because we cannot hold elections while the current parliamentary term is still in session,” Ms Mhlauli explained.
She added that the compulsion for dissolution was also informed by the need to proclaim the elections date, which is scheduled to take place next Tuesday.
“The proclamation of the elections is the legal process wherein the elections date is published in the Government Gazette, thereby closing the voters’ roll and starting the official election timetable,” she said.
The development means that South Africans have until close of business on February 26 to register to vote.
The move to dissolve parliament will not affect the work of the legislature. Section 49 (4) of the Constitution states: “The National Assembly remains competent to function from the time it is dissolved or its term expires, until the day before the first day of polling for the next Assembly.”
Before the House voted, Speaker Baleka Mbete read a letter from President Ramaphosa in which he asked that all legislatures be dissolved by February 26.
No one raised an objection and 249 MPs voted in favour of the motion – 201 votes was required for it to pass.
This is not the first time parliament has been dissolved. It was also done ahead of the 2004 elections.
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