What happens next? How and when South Africa’s next President will be elected

 ·3 Jun 2024

With the final vote counted and the results of the seventh general elections proclaimed on 2 June 2024, horse-trading is underway among political parties in hopes of forming part of the new administration, given that no party received an outright parliamentary majority.

The negotiations taking place include who the parties will collectively back for President, Speaker, and Deputy Speaker.

In return, they are expected to receive key cabinet positions, National Assembly (NA) committee appointments and other portfolios.

However, they have limited time to do so, and ideological battles mixed with personal motives mean that it could be a stretch to assume that an agreement is certain within a fortnight.

What the Constitution says

Section 51.1 of the Constitution says that the first sitting of the NA must take place at a time and date determined by the President of the Constitutional Court. However, this cannot be more than 14 days after the election result has been declared.

After being sworn in, the NA members will elect a new speaker of the house from among its ranks, presided over by the Chief Justice or another judge that the Chief Justice delegates to do so.

When this is done, the newly elected speaker will then preside over the election of a deputy speaker.

Only after this, the election of a new president by members of the NA take place, with the chief justice once again presiding over this part of proceedings.

According to section 86.1 “at its first sitting after its election…the National Assembly must elect a woman or a man from among its members to be the President,” meaning that only a sworn in member of parliament (MP) can be elected.

The presiding officer calls for candidate nominations. Nominees for president need two signatures from Assembly members and they must accept their nomination by signing.

If only one nominee, they are automatically elected. But, if there multiple nominees, a secret ballot vote occurs. The candidate with the majority wins.

If there is no majority, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated, and voting repeats until a majority winner emerges. If tied, a separate vote decides. If two candidates tie and there is no majority, a new meeting is held within seven days for a fresh vote.

When elected, that person ceases to be an MP and must have an inauguration where they swear allegiance to the Republic within five days.

After the President’s election in the National Assembly, they will then appoint their Cabinet. The president will appoint their Deputy President/s, ministers and deputies.

The Deputy President is required to be an MP, while a maximum of two of the ministers may be selected from outside the NA.

Given that the election results for the seventh administration have been announced, however the first sitting of the NA has not yet happened, this does not mean that South Africa is currently without a cabinet.

Section 94 of the Constitution says that “when an election of the National Assembly is held, the Cabinet, the deputy president, ministers and any deputy ministers remain competent to function until the person elected president by the next assembly assumes office.”

Note – the rules for the provincial legislatures and the election of Premiers almost mirrors the abovementioned process.

Read: All the big changes to National Assembly and Provincial Legislatures in South Africa

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