South Africa: Does the President Have Too Much Power? Yes (And No)


Willie Hofmeyr overstates the position when he says that the powers of appointment which the president has under the Constitution are unqualified. The rule of law is regarded as supreme, which means that anything done by the president has to be within the confines of the doctrine of legality and must serve a legitimate purpose of government.

Willie Hofmeyr, after ending 20 years of service in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), has, according to weekend media reports, come out strongly in favour of clipping the presidential wings by restricting his constitutional role. Hofmeyr complains of an over-concentration of power in the hands of the president, pointing out that all senior appointments in the NPA are the "unqualified" business of the president.

Hofmeyr is not the first to so complain. The former deputy chief justice, Dikgang Moseneke, has also raised the topic, saying back in 2014 that too much power vests in the presidency.

It should not be imagined, insofar as the NPA is concerned, that the South African Constitution is unique. In the US, the attorney-general, who has the role of chief prosecutor, is a member of the cabinet, a position not enjoyed (or perhaps endured) by our national director...

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