Role of NCOP

National Parliament consists of two Houses: the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). There are three spheres of government in South Africa - national, provincial and local government. These were created to bring government closer to the people. The NCOP was created to ensure that provinces and local government have a direct voice in Parliament when national laws are made. This is important because most of these laws have to be implemented, or carried out, in provinces and local government.

The NCOP consists of nine provincial delegations and a delegation of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). Each province has the same number of delegates, no matter how big or small the province is. This means that even a small province has as much say as a big province. There is, therefore, a balance of interests between each of the nine South African provinces.

Each province has 10 delegates. There are 4 special and 6 permanent delegates. The delegation is headed by the Premier of each province who is one of the special delegates. If necessary, the Premier can appoint someone to take her/his place.

The provinces' delegates come from the Provincial Legislatures. The delegation must reflect the strength of the different parties in the province. The party that wins the most support in the provincial election will head the provincial delegation to the NCOP. For example, in the Eastern Cape, there will be a majority of ANC delegates and, in KwaZulu-Natal, most delegates will come from the IFP. SALGA's delegation is chosen by the Executive Committee from a group of representatives of the nine provincial local government associations.

There are three kinds of Bills the NCOP must deal with and the Constitution tells the NCOP how to work with each kind of bill:

Bills which do not affect provinces are those which relate to national functions (such as Defence, Foreign Affairs and Justice). When such a Bill has been passed by the National Assembly, it goes to the NCOP. Each delegate has one vote and can decide whether to vote for or against the Bill. Usually delegates vote along party lines. If the Bill is passed, it goes to the President for signing. Once a Bill is signed by the President, it becomes an Act of Parliament or law. If the NCOP wants to make changes to a Bill, it goes back to the National Assembly who can accept or reject the changes. It then goes to the President for signing.

When a Bill affects provinces, the process is a bit more complicated. Examples of Bills that affect provinces include, for example, Bills on Education, Transport, Welfare, and Health. The Constitution allows most of these Bills to be introduced in either House but there are some bills which have to start in the NA. The voting in the NCOP is different t for Bills that affect provinces. In these cases, each province (and not each individual member) has one vote. This means there must be consensus in each province on the Bill. If there is disagreement between the National Assembly and the NCOP about a Bill affecting provinces, the Bill must be sent to a mediation committee. This committee consists of 9 members of the NCOP and 9 members of the National Assembly.

The mediation committee must try to find agreement. If it does not, and if the Bill was introduced in the National Assembly, the Bill is sent back to the NA which may vote on it again. In such a case, a two thirds majority is needed to pass a bill. In other words, the NA can override the NCOP by a two thirds majority. But, if the bill started in the NCOP and the Mediation Committee cannot reach agre