The African National Congress’ (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magashule held a press briefing on Tuesday at the party headquarters Luthuli House to inform the media about the outcomes of Monday’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting, which resolved to recall President Jacob Zuma as president of the republic.
Magashule said that the NEC did not put down a timeline for if or when Zuma will be resigning. However, he said when the ANC recalls its deployee, it expects him to obey.
He also said it’s clear that the NEC wants ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to be the next president of South Africa, as it’s the party’s resolution that its president should be the leader of the country as well.
— KhayelihleKhumalo (@KhayaJames) February 13, 2018
It had been reported that the Ramaphosa told the NEC during the meeting that a proposal was put forward by Zuma that he be allowed three to six months “notice” after which he would leave the office of the presidency unconditionally. This was rejected by the meeting of the party’s top decision-making body, which said that Zuma should step down immediately. Magashule mentioned in the press conference the NEC could not agree with the timeline for when Zuma should step down by.
However, it is the parliament and not the ANC that has the constitutional power to remove the president. Zuma can only leave the office through his own resignation, or through a motion of no confidence which will be tabled in parliament, or impeachment.
The party faces a potential headache and a parliamentary showdown against its former leader as Zuma has reportedly refused to resign.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said to The Daily Vox that Zuma has the choice to resign at any time and he is trying the ANC out to see how far they will go to remove him.
The ANC has reportedly resolved to table a motion of no confidence if Zuma does not step down, though Magashule said that no motion had been discussed at the special meeting on Monday.
An NEC member told the Mail & Guardian that they would ask the ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu to start the process to table a motion.
Mathekga said: “I think the ANC did not anticipate that it would get to this point where they would have to use external measures such as the motion of no confidence. They negotiated very badly hence it could not be resolved amicably. But they are aware at some point a decision will have to be made that perhaps parliamentary processes is the best way to get rid of Zuma considering that they tried.The thing is he is trying them out as well to see how far they can go. So he can hope they can postpone this thing and not get rid of him. While bickering about it, he will hope to remain the president. So I think he (Zuma) is in a win-win situation. They can do a motion and he can still resign two minutes before the motion is held.”
The NEC further resolved that Ramaphosa to be sworn in as the new president by Friday in order for him to deliver the state of the nation address before the budget speech, which is due on 21 February.
However Mathekga said he doesn’t think a decision on who the next president is will be resolved very quickly.
“I have a serious doubt about the ANC’s ability to agree on anything now. If the ANC cannot agree on the person who is supposed to leave the ANC and whose term has come to an end, I have a doubt if they can agree on [who] they will elect as the new president. I wouldn’t hold my breath on them electing a president quickly,” Mathekga said.
All the signs do seem to point towards the ruling party preparing a motion of no confidence against the president. Two meetings of all the parliamentary parties chief whips have been scheduled on Wednesday for 08:00 and a special ANC caucus meeting has been called for 10:00.
— John Steenhuisen MP (@jsteenhuisen) February 13, 2018
The ANC has called a special caucus meeting for tomorrow morning.
— Scapegoat (@AndiMakinana) February 13, 2018
If Zuma does however decide to heed the ANC’s call for him to resign, the following process will kick in: Phephelaphi Dube, director for the Centre for Constitutional Rights in Cape Town, said in an interview, a Zuma resignation would be the least messy option. In order for the process to be carried out, Zuma would have to send a letter to the speaker of the national assembly Baleka Mbete. This would leave a vacancy in the office of the presidency and in terms of what has been outlined in the constitution, the deputy president would step in to complete the term of the president. In this case obviously, it means that Cyril Ramaphosa would step in as the caretaker president.
Dube said once the president resigns, the deputy president would need to sign an oath of office which has to be administered by the chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and thereafter he would assume the full powers of the office of the president. However, this all needs to be done within five days of the vacancy.
The constitution is also quite clear that if there is a resignation, there will be no election of a new president by the members of parliament. Dube said that along with deputy president assuming the power of the president upon swearing the oath, he can also now appoint a new cabinet, ministers and a deputy president. If this process was completed before the new date for the state of the nation is set, the deputy now the president would be able to give the speech.
However, that is all to say if Zuma does decide he wants to step down and hands in his resignation.
If Zuma refuses to do so and the motion of no confidence goes ahead, this is the process that kick in: if the motion of no confidence is successful, the president, the deputy president along with any deputy ministers and the members of cabinet would need to step down immediately. The speaker of parliament would then step in as the caretaker president while the members of the national assembly vote for a new candidate for president. This needs to take place within 30 days of the president being impeached and the office being vacant.