'Difficult for DA to oust president'

Anna Majavu

Anna Majavu

Legal experts have unanimously poured cold water on DA leader Helen Zille's suggestion that Jacob Zuma should quit the presidential race to avoid his appointment being challenged in the Constitutional Court.

Zille told Zuma last week that his presidency would create a conflict of interest between his role as head of state and his status as an accused.

She pointed out that the president appoints the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), who in Zuma's case, is pursuing charges of fraud and corruption against him.

But constitutional law expert Shadrack Gutto of the University of South Africa says it is a "very far-fetched argument".

"It is unlikely that any court would rule that the only remedy is to stop Zuma from being president," said Gutto.

"It is more likely that Zuma would have to take leave and appoint an acting president if he was found to be spending so much time in court that he could not discharge his duties as president," he said.

Raylene Keightley of the University of the Witwatersrand's Centre for Applied Legal Studies says there is a potential conflict because the NDPP would decide whether to continue prosecuting Zuma or not.

"But this does not mean that a court would rule that Zuma should not be president," she said.

"In order for the DA to show that the conflict is so unavoidable that the only remedy is for Zuma to step down, they would have to show that none of the safeguards built into the Constitution would work," said Keightley.