The role of the speaker in post-apartheid South Africa: political impartiality or partisanship?
Labuschagne, P. A. H.
Napier, C. J.
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The role of the Speaker in the South African Parliament has recently being steeped in controversy when the sitting Speaker, Ms Baleka Mbete, was accused of partiality and strong partisanship towards the ruling party. This controversy highlighted the cardinally important role of a Speaker in parliament to ensure impartiality and fairness to all political parties. The South African Parliament is based on the British Westminster system in which the impartiality of the Speaker is accorded a very high premium and a distinguishing feature of that legislature. The aim of this article is to investigate the office of the Speaker with reference to its historical background and development as an official position in a parliamentary system. The purpose is to highlight the Speaker’s important role, not only as the chairperson of the National Assembly, but also as the custodian of the powers and the dignity of the Assembly. The article also points out the inherent dangers of the Speaker’s embrace of partisan interests above that of parliament and the implications for the future role of the institution.