How to hold provincial government accountable

| Fergus Turner
Western Cape provincial building, Cape Town. Photo by Editor at Large (Wikipedia handle) under CC ASA 2.5.

The 2014 national and provincial elections are around the corner. You will have the chance to vote for the national assembly and your provincial legislature. What is a provincial legislature and how does it work? In this sequel to our article on holding local government accountable, Fergus Turner explains.

The legislature

South Africa’s nine provinces are governed by provincial governments. Provincial government is the second layer of government, that links national government with local municipalities and has the power to make laws for the province.

A provincial legislature has between 30 and 80 members (MPLs). The legislature serves a five year term.

South Africa uses proportional representation and party lists in elections. This means that you and people in your area vote for political parties, who declare their party lists before elections. Each party gets a number of seats proportional to the amount of votes that party got in the elections.

The legislature chooses a Premier who chooses an executive council from the members of the provincial legislature. Together, the Premier and the council make up the executive body of the province, responsible for putting into effect the laws passed by the provincial legislature.

The Premier must answer to the legislature and the legislature must comply with the national Constitution.

For more information, see:

The executive

The Premier is voted in by the provincial legislature. That is why the Premier will usually be the provincial leader of the majority party. The Premier chooses the members of the executive council, which forms a cabinet at provincial level.

Your provincial cabinet:

The Premier, together with the provincial cabinet, make up the executive body of the province, responsible for

  • Carrying out provincial and national legislation

  • Coordinating what the Provincial Government and its departments do

The members of the executive council are also accountable individually and collectively to the legislature. The term of the Premier is five years; the same as that of the legislature. Like the president at national level, the Premier has a limit of two terms in office.

Provincial, national, and local

The three levels of government work together to govern the country.

National legislation prevails over provincial legislation in cases where they conflict over national interests; like the maintenance of national security, national economic interests, and the protection of the environment.

On the other hand, the provincial legislature can recommend laws and policies to the National Assembly.

The province can assign any of its law-making powers to municipal councils in the province and can get municipalities to focus on provincial plans.

Western Cape Government

Western Cape’s provincial parliament is in Wale Street, Cape Town. There are 42 members of parliament. After the election of 22 April 2009 the makeup of the parliament was: 22 DA seats 14 ANC 3 COPE 2 ID 1 ACDP

The current Premier is Helen Zille…

According to the Western Cape government’s site, the Premier can: * Agree to and sign Bills. * Refer Bills to the provincial legislature and to the Constitutional Court to ensure that they are in line with the Constitution. * Summon the provincial legislature to an extraordinary sitting for special or urgent business. * Appoint commissions of inquiry. * Call for referendums in the Western Cape in line with national legislation.

According to Zak Mbhele, Helen Zille’s spokesperson, the priorities of the Western Cape Government for the term of the current administration, as outlined in the Provincial Strategic Plan, are: 1) Ensuring clean and more efficient government. 2) Improving education outcomes of the schooling system. 3) Increasing opportunities for people to attain better livelihoods and living conditions.


Municipalities answer to provincial legislatures and their policies and plans must be in agreement with provincial priorities, which means that your provincial vote does affect what your municipality and wards do and how they are run.

It is worth finding out which services are provided by provincial and which by local government so that you can raise grievances with the relevant authority and save yourself time.

Participation and contact

The Western Cape government encourages you to participate and hold provincial government accountable by voting, observing legislative proceedings, and sending feedback on draft legislation.

You can also make a written submission to the legislature on matters on which submissions have been invited. submissions for. Submissions can be referred to committees for further discussion.

You can also write a complaint or request to the legislature in the form of a petition signed by you and/or a group of people.

You can visit the legislature or find out what is being discussed by looking at the diary (which is currently unavailable online). The legislature also offers short tours.

Contact the Western Cape government on:

Phone: 0860 142 142

Email: service [at]

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or Twitter:

See How to hold local government accountable.

TOPICS:  Government Politics

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