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A critical analysis of political independence in the role and responsibilities of the Speaker of the National Assembly.

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The former Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Baleka Mbete, was the subject of numerous accusations of showing partisanship towards the ruling party culminating in a case before the High Court. This permitted the ruling party to control debate in Parliament while limiting the oversight potential of Members of Parliament belonging to different political parties. The Office of the Speaker could better serve the people of South Africa if the incumbent were to be politically independent by surrendering their party membership upon election. In the British Westminster model of Parliament, upon which the South African parliamentary system is based, the Office of the Speaker is characterised by indomitable autonomy and respect. An examination into the history and origin of the Office of the Speaker in Great Britain shows that the independence of the Office is crucial in preventing the abuse of state power. A partisan Speaker is dangerous to the separation of powers as it allows the needs of the ruling party to usurp the interests of the people. Adopting a model closer to that of the British Westminster system would allow for greater accountability of the executive by allowing opposition parties to perform their constitutional oversight obligations and it would restore public faith in the legislature.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.