Focus the attention of MPs and the nation at large on the crisis of gender-based violence and femicide – this is the purpose of the urgent sitting of both houses of Parliament which President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for on Wednesday.
The Constitution empowers the president to summon the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) to an extraordinary sitting to conduct special business.
In a letter to Parliament dated Thursday, September 12, 2019, Ramaphosa provided the following motivation for his call: “In the last two weeks, South Africa’s approach to violence perpetrated against women has changed fundamentally.
“We all have the responsibility to ensure that these events become the turning point in our fight against gender-based violence.”
Ramaphosa will deliver an address, which will then be debated.
“Referring to violence perpetrated against women in the last two weeks, President Ramaphosa stressed that we all have a responsibility to ensure that these events become a turning point in our fight to end gender-based violence,” a statement from Parliament read.
“Crime statistics released this week showed an increase in violence in the country. This included increases in sexual offences, such as rape and other violence against women.”
Seldom used provision
This comes almost two weeks after Ramaphosa addressed a large protest outside Parliament and later that evening delivered a pre-recorded, televised speech on the matter.
The sitting is scheduled to start at 14:00.
The NCOP rescheduled its work to accommodate the special sitting.
This week was set aside for the NCOP to do provincial oversight visits, but its programme for Wednesday will be shifted to Thursday, and the programme for Thursday to Friday.
Although the Constitution allows the president to call such a sitting, the provision is seldom used other than for State of the Nation Addresses.
In 2005, then-president Thabo Mbeki called such a sitting to announce that he had fired Jacob Zuma as deputy president, or rather, to “release the Honourable Jacob Zuma from his responsibilities as deputy president of the republic and member of the Cabinet”.
The previous time such a sitting was called was in 2013, when former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan addressed both houses of Parliament.