Understanding Provincial Legislation
South Africa operates as a constitutional democracy and has three spheres: National Government, Provincial Government, and Local Government. The Constitution overarches each sphere, and thus laws made at each level, including provincial legislation, must adhere to the provisions found within them.
Provincial legislation plays a vital role in democratic South Africa. Under South African law, the nine provinces (namely, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Mpumalanga, North West, and Gauteng) each play a role in drafting the country’s national legislation by participating in the National Council of Provinces. The laws made by provincial legislatures (or provincial acts) are also called subordinate laws. These laws are made by the provinces themselves but must adhere to the Constitution, as with all laws in South Africa.
Provincial legislatures can pass laws regarding matters such as health, housing, and education. Nonetheless, the national parliament ultimately retains legal power in these areas and, if necessary, can override provincial legislation.
Stipulations Around Provincial Legislation
Understanding provincial legislation means understanding its purpose and the various stipulations that surround it. South Africa’s Constitution provides that each of the nine provinces has its own provincial legislature. These legislatures usually consist of around 30 to 80 members (the number of members is calculated by a unique formula created by National Law.) Members are elected by means of proportional representation, meaning that people gain seats proportionally to the number of votes.
The provincial legislature is also able to adopt a constitution for the particular province (if a two-thirds majority of the members agree). Yet, provincial bodies have to correspond with South Africa’s National Constitution, and, as always, it governs each element of the law.
Each of South Africa’s provinces has an executive council. This council includes the provincial Premier and MECs, or members of the executive council. These members are in charge of various provincial departments. Premiers are elected by the provincial legislature.
Within South Africa’s Constitution, provinces can have executive and legislative powers over the following categories:
- Casinos, gambling, racing, and wagering
- Cultural Affairs
- Education (excluding university)
- Health services
- Human settlements
- Language policies
- Provincial public media
- Public transport
- Vehicle licencing
- Trade and industrial promotion
- Urban and rural development
- Welfare services
Furthermore, provinces have “exclusive competency” over the following areas:
- Ambulance services
- Liquor licences
- Provincial planning
- Provincial roads and traffic
- Provincial cultural matters
Where to Find Information on South African Provincial Legislature and General Law
If you are searching for peer-reviewed information on South African law and all sectors of government, Sabinet has several impressive journal offerings, including the African Journal of Democracy and Governance, Constitutional Court Review, Journal of Law, Society and Development, Local Government Bulletin, and Southern African Public Law.
Sabinet’s specialised legal information services section also provides legislative documents at a national, provincial, and municipal level, alongside government gazettes from 1910 to the present day and a database of provincial legislation. In the provincial section of Sabinet, users can search for various documentation, including regional acts, provincial regulations, and provincial rules. Users can search from 1909 to the present and browse a range of topics, including provincial finances, education, health, transport, land use, roads and traffic, traditional leadership and customary law, consumer protection, urban development, tourism, housing, and more.
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