The fifth democratic Parliament’s 400 National Assembly MPs were sworn in on Wednesday – some returning after two decades in the legislature, others such as Julius Malema taking up seats for the first time.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng called MPs to take the oath or solemn affirmation in groups of 10, with the first including ANC president Jacob Zuma, party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, Jeff Radebe and Naledi Pandor.
The next group included Pravin Gordhan, who is widely expected to return to his portfolio of finance when Zuma announces his Cabinet on Sunday, after Tito Mboweni withdrew from the ruling party’s list of MPs.
Zuma will remain an MP for only a few hours before being formally elected president for a second term by members of the Assembly.
His former political protégé turned foe Malema was sworn in along with nine other members of his Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), who hold 25 seats in the chamber after winning 6% of the vote in the May 7 elections.
Malema and his colleagues wore red boiler suits to symbolise their stated aim of representing the poor. But most of the other MPs chose formal attire such as suits for the ceremony.
The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Mmusi Maimane was sworn in amid intense speculation that though he has no experience in the legislature, he will replace Lindiwe Mazibuko as the party’s parliamentary leader.
Another new DA MP was former prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach, who joined the official opposition after a bruising labour dispute with the National Prosecuting Authority.
Before the sitting began, hugs, kisses, and handshakes were comfortably exchanged in the Assembly as MPs took their seats.
Animated conversations took place between ANC MPs, many of whom are returning to the fifth Parliament after the elections.
Some of the ruling party’s MPs walked over to MPs from the EFF to welcome them to the House for the first time.
Former Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale greeted Malema warmly with a handshake and a pat on the back.
In contrast to the EFF newcomers, many MPs were taking the oath or solemn affirmation for the fifth time, having served in every post-apartheid Parliament.
Among them was former minister Pallo Jordan of the ANC and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Gravely ill IFP MP Mario Oriani-Ambrosini returned to the legislature in a wheelchair. Looking frail, Oriani-Ambrosini lifted himself out of his wheelchair with the help of an ornate walking stick and stood hunched over while reading the oath.
Once all 400 members of the National Assembly had been sworn in, they were to elect a new speaker and deputy speaker.
The ANC has nominated its national chairperson Baleka Mbete to return to the post of speaker, which she held from 2004 to 2008. – Sapa