How to remove a president from office

President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament.
President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in Parliament.
Image: Gallo Images

Speculation around Jacob Zuma’s future is intensifying after reports that the president is on his way out.

The publication took a look at possible methods for removing a president from office.

Political analyst Dr Zwelethu Jolobe explains what should occur.

“If a president resigns‚ that creates a vacancy. Constitutionally‚ his deputy president should automatically take over as president. The deputy is filling in until the end of term for the president‚ so that does not count as a term for the deputy. In this case‚ the president is vacating office alone and his cabinet remains in parliament‚” Jolobe said.

When the president vacates office due to a motion of no confidence‚ the scenario is different. In such a case‚ all members of the cabinet vacate their posts and a newly elected president from the ruling party will choose his/her cabinet from the members of parliament.

According to Jolobe‚ South Africa’s legal system does not provide for the recall of a president.

“It does not exist legally in our country. There is no provision for such a remedy‚” he said.

A “recall” is an act where the governing party’s National Executive Committee decides to remove a president. There is another time-consuming and legally complicated process‚ known as impeachment.

“This comes after a president is found in contravention of the constitution in any way. It could be through‚ but not limited to‚ the abuse of power or a link to criminality. This is a drawn-out process and the consequences are dire. The president stands to lose his presidential benefits such as pension fund‚ allowances and many other benefits‚” said Jolobe.

Political analyst Khaya Sithole said the political structure under Zuma should not be confused with that of former president Thabo Mbeki.

“We didn’t see a normal transition of power during Mbeki’s time. His deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka resigned following his vacation of office‚ that’s why she did not become a president‚” Sithole said.

Mlambo-Ngcuka resigned for two reasons — for personal reasons‚ and also she wanted to afford the new president the opportunity to elect his own deputy president.

Kgalema Motlanthe‚ who at the time was the minister in the presidency and deputy president of the ANC‚ was elected interim president of the country.

The National Assembly’s subcommittee is meeting on Wednesday, January 10 2018, to review the rules and discuss the draft procedure for removing a president.

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