Fact sheet: How to remove a South African president

DA leader Mmusi Maimane in the National Assembly. (David Harrison, M&G)

DA leader Mmusi Maimane in the National Assembly. (David Harrison, M&G)

In terms of the South African Constitution, the process for removing the president is clear and straightforward. 

According to section 89(1) of the Constitution, a president may only removed if:

  • They have committed a serious violation of the constitution or the law;
  • In the case of serious misconduct on behalf of the president; or
  • The president is unable to perform the functions of their office. 

According to the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Nkandla, President Jacob Zuma did, in fact, violate the South African Constitution with regards to his Nkandla estate. Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, when reading the court’s judgment on March 31, said: “The president failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution.”

Jacob Zuma may then be impeached by the National Assembly on these grounds. 

In order to remove Zuma from office however, the National Assembly of Parliament must adopt a resolution with a supporting vote of no less than two-thirds of its members. 

The ANC currently holds just under a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. 

Of the 400 MPs in the National Assembly, 249 are ANC-aligned and 151 are aligned to the various opposition parties. 

At least 116 ANC MPs would have to vote to remove the president for Jacob Zuma to be impeached – assuming that the remaining 151 opposition party MPs vote unanimously to have him removed from the presidency.

Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that at least 116 ANC MPs would need to vote to remove President Jacob Zuma, not only 100 as previously stated.

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