13 February 2018

South Africa: Zexit - What Happens Now?

The ANC's national executive committee has decided to ask President Jacob Zuma to resign or be recalled. This can set one of two processes in motion: Zuma resigns, or the National Assembly adopts a motion of no confidence against him.

If Zuma resigns:

Zuma will have to write a letter to Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete to inform her of his decision to step down.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa then becomes acting president after taking the oath of office.

The chief justice must determine a date, within 30 days of the vacancy occurring, for the National Assembly to elect a new president from its members. If there is more than one candidate, this will be done by secret ballot.

In this case, Cabinet isn't automatically dissolved, but the new president will have the prerogative to appoint his/her own Cabinet.

If Zuma refuses to resign:

A motion of no confidence will have to be scheduled to be heard in the National Assembly. There is currently such a motion, brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters, scheduled for February 22 with Mbete considering the party's proposal that it be heard this week.

A majority vote by the members of the National Assembly is needed to pass such a motion. If passed, the president, Cabinet and deputy ministers must resign.

If this happens, Zuma will keep the benefits afforded to a former president.

Thereafter, the only item on the National Assembly's agenda will be the election of a new president. During this period, Mbete will be the acting president.

Once again the chief justice must determine a date, within 30 days of the vacancy occurring, for the National Assembly to elect a new president.

If the new president is not elected within 30 days of Zuma's removal, the Speaker must dissolve Parliament and new national elections must be held.

Another option would be to remove Zuma in terms of section 89 of the Constitution, also called an impeachment.

This process would take much longer, as a committee would have to investigate whether there are grounds to remove the president.

Grounds for removal include a serious violation of the Constitution or the law, serious misconduct or an inability to perform the functions of the office.

Two thirds of the National Assembly must vote for the removal of the president in this instance. At the moment this seems an unlikely route.


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