‘No-confidence motion in Zuma is a moral test‚ impeachment a factual test’

Jacob Zuma. Photo: James Oatway
Jacob Zuma. Photo: James Oatway

Even if the Democratic Alliance’s motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma fails‚ the “ensuing debate will ensure a more accountable and open system of governance”.

So wrote Phephelaphi Dube‚ legal officer for the Centre for Constitutional Rights‚ who opined that it will raise “the obvious question as to whether members of Parliament are beholden to their party bosses rather than to the Constitution”.

Dube said “it is not the first time that the opposition party has attempted to have a no confidence resolution passed”‚ and pointed out “no such attempt in South Africa’s constitutional democracy has ever succeeded‚ given that for the resolution to pass‚ the motion must be supported by a simple majority of the members of the National Assembly”.

“Since the president is drawn from the ranks of the governing party whose members command the majority of the National Assembly‚ it is highly unlikely that these same members would support a motion of no confidence in their leader‚” she wrote.

Should a motion of no confidence – made provision for in Section 102(2) of the Constitution – “be carried‚ then the president must resign”‚ Dube said.

“A motion of no confidence must be differentiated from the removal of a president according to section 89 of the Constitution.

“The removal may take place by a resolution of the National Assembly adopted with a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of its members‚ and only on grounds of serious violation of the Constitution‚ serious misconduct or the inability to perform the functions of office.

“Simply put‚ a motion of no confidence is a moral test‚ while the impeachment proceedings are a factual test.”

She explained that should the Constitutional Court – where the DA took Zuma and others over the Nkandla report – “make an adverse finding against the president regarding his conduct where the law or the Constitution has been violated — then‚ arguably‚ this could constitute a factual ground for impeachment proceedings”.


The motion will be debated on March 1.


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