How Zuma's exit may unfold

It now seems a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ President Jacob Zuma will step down. (David Harrison/M&G)

It now seems a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ President Jacob Zuma will step down. (David Harrison/M&G)

It now seems a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ President Jacob Zuma will step down. With ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and other members of the top six reportedly frustrated by their efforts to get Msholozi to step down gracefully,these are the options available to them.

Vote of no confidence 

Zuma’s enemies have previously sought to topple him with parliamentary votes of no confidence.

Several such motions have been tabled in parliament but failed.

During the last attempt, in August, the president’s opponents fell short by only 24 votes after some lawmakers from the ANC voted against him.

For such a motion to succeed, a simple majority of parliamentarians would be needed –201 in total. The ANC has 249 seats in the national assembly.

If successful, the president and cabinet would have to resign.

The speaker of parliament would become president for a maximum 30 days.

The Economic Freedom Fighters party has tabled another motion of no confidence which is due to be debated in parliament on February 22.

Impeachment

The impeachment process provides three grounds by which lawmakers can strip the president of office: a serious breach of the constitution; serious misconduct; or incapacity to carry out his or her duties.

Two-thirds – 267 – of the members of the National Assembly would have to vote for the president’s removal for this pathway to succeed.

If a president is removed by impeachment, he or she is replaced by the deputy president, and would lose the perks and benefits normally afforded to former heads of state.

However, the prospects for this are unclear. Parliament’s oversight of the president has been criticised as being too slack.

In 2016, Zuma was found guilty of failing to uphold the constitution by the country’s highest court over taxpayer-funded upgrades to his personal home.

After a court battle, Zuma agreed to pay back R7.8 million that he had refused to reimburse for upgrades to his Nkandla homestead.

In December, the Constitutional Court criticised parliament for not holding the president to account over this scandal and ordered it to draft clear rules for removing a sitting head of state.

Parliament has begun discussing such a mechanism but could take months to conclude the process.

Resignation 

There are two main scenarios under which Zuma could resign.

He could decide to relinquish power – likely the most dignified option and clearly the ideal route for the ANC.

This route would “not embarrass the president”, Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, a political science lecturer at Stellenbosch University, said.

Recall

Under the other scenario, Zuma could be “recalled” by the NEC when they meet on Wednesday and effectively forced to quit.

Such a move is not desirable as it would likely further split an already fractured NEC at a time when most are calling for unity.

If he refused to step down as head of state, the party could then trigger a parliamentary confidence motion to get rid of him. Again, the ANC is trying to avoid this as the considerable support base that Zuma wields, particularly in the highly contested KwaZulu-Natal region, could punish the ruling party at the ballot box in 2019.

In 2008 when Zuma was elected as president of the ANC, the governing party recalled head of state Thabo Mbeki and shortened his term by eight months.

The party then ordered him to quit the presidency, because presidents derive their legitimacy from the largest party in parliament which elects them.

The deputy president would take power and it would be up to the national assembly to pick a new president within 30 days.

Agence France-Presse

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