The Speakership is at the heart of local councils. The Speaker of Council (Cllr MW Mngomezulu) was elected as the Speaker of Council in the aftermath of the 2016 Local Government Elections, at a Special sitting called on 12 August 2016.
In terms of Section 37 of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998, Municipal Systems Act (Act 32 of 2000), SALGA Guidelines, CALM Systems of Delegations, the functions of the Speaker as contemplated therein include the following:
The speaker of a municipal council-
(a) presides at meetings of the council;
The Speaker’s responsibilities in council meetings include:
Preside at meetings of Council;
Maintain order during Council meetings;
Ensure that Council meetings are conducted in accordance with Rules of Order of Council;
Ensure that councillors get adequate notice of meetings;
Ensure implementation of procedure with regard to quorums and compliance with section 30 of the Municipal Structures Act;
Allocate speaking time to members in accordance with the Council’s policy;
Implement voting procedure in accordance with Rules of Order and subject to the Municipal Structures Act;
Ensure that councillors freedom of speech is protected;
Ensure that councillors freedom of speech is exercised subject to council’s Rules of Order;
Ensure and facilitate the admission of public to council meetings;
Grant leave of absence to councillors in accordance with council’s Rules of Orders;
Guard against the abuse of councillor’s privileges and interest and;
Maintain an attendance register.
The speaker calls council meetings and decides on their time and venue.
However, if a majority of the councillors request a meeting, the speaker must convene a meeting accordingly. The speaker must ensure that members are given adequate notice of meetings in terms of the rules of order.
The speaker should take the initiative in the policy formulation around the rules of order. The speaker should chair the committee that deals with rules of order. The ultimate decision-maker on the rules of order is the council.
Debating the merits or demerits of an issue before council lies at the heart of local democracy. Free and open debate is protected in the Constitution. The Structures Act provides for the freedom of speech in a municipal council, subject to the rules and order of council (s 28).
The role of the speaker is to thus ensure that:
1. Councillors’ freedom of speech in the council is protected, i.e. that councillors are allowed to speak freely, that there is order in the meeting, that there are no interruptions, etc.
2. Councillors’ freedom of speech is exercised subject to council’s rules of order, i.e. no insults, defamation, compliance with rules of debate management, etc.
The speaker’s responsibility for presiding over council meetings implies that the speaker must be involved in the preparation of the agenda that is circulated to council members prior to the meeting. Items for the agenda come from various ‘corners’ of the municipality, e.g. council’s executive, the administration, portfolio committees, etc. Council’s rules of order must provide for a procedure that must be followed in preparing the agenda. The principle that is suggested here is that this should be a consultative process, including at least the (executive) mayor, the municipal manager and the speaker.
(b) Performs the duties and exercises the powers delegated to the speaker in
Terms of section 59 of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act,
2000 (Act 32 of 2000);
[Para. (b) amended by s. 14 (a) of Act 51 of 2002.]
(c) Must ensure compliance in the council and council committees with the
Code of Conduct set out in Schedule 1 to the Local Government:
Municipal Systems Act, 2000 (Act 32 of 2000); and
[Para. (e) Amended by s. 14 (b) of Act 51 of 2002.]
(d) Must ensure that council meetings are conducted in accordance with the
Rules and orders of the council.
• Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998.
• Local Government: Municipal Systems Act (Act 32 of 2000).
• Municipal Finance Management Act (No. 56 of 2003).
• SALGA Guideline Document on the Roles and Responsibilities of Councillors, Political Structures and
Officials March 2011.