Today we visited the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, which plays a direct and active role in national affairs. The national government is composed of three (3) inter-connected branches, with three cities acting as the capital: Legislative, located in Cape Town; Executive, located in Pretoria; and Judicial, located in Bloemfontein. Our visit was to the Executive branch.
The President, Deputy President and the Ministers make up the executive branch of the national government. The president and ministers are Members of Parliament who are appointed by the President to head the various departments of the national government. The president is elected by parliament from its members. The ministers individually, and the Cabinet collectively, are accountable to Parliament for their actions.
Our Tour Guide
The National Assembly Chambers
President’s seat in the National Assembly Chambers
During our visit, the Women’s Parliament was in session in the Old Assembly Chambers. We sat in the session, but were not allowed to take photographs.
August 09th was National Women’s Day in South Africa, which is an annual public holiday and honors the national march of women. On this day in 1956, more than 50,000 women staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Area Acts (commonly known as the pass laws). They left bundles of petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures at the Prime Minister’s office doors and stood outside silently for 30 minutes; many with their children on their backs. The women sang a protest song, “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock)! In the years since, this phrase has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.
Since Women’s Day is a national holiday, there were a great number of businesses closed on this day. So on this day, we did what we usually do and went to the Waterfront. And boy was it packed! We spent the rest of the day studying for our Mid-term that we were going to take the next day.