How might South Africa's President Zuma leave office?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AFP) – Pressure is mounting on South Africa's President Jacob Zuma to leave office, with the ruling ANC party confirming talks are underway over his possible departure.

His authority slipped further this weekend when his party vowed to “act decisively” to rebuild its reputation in the wake of the many scandals that have dominated his nine-year rule.

Here are the ways by which Zuma could leave power before the end of his term, which finishes in 2019:


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 Zuma's own African National Congress party 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.


Two-thirds of lawmakers would have to vote in favour of impeachment for it to succeed.

Grounds on which a motion of impeachment could be presented include serious breach of the constitution, incapacity of the president or serious misconduct.

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 US$500,000 that he had refused to repay.

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

Parliament has begun discussing such a mechanism but it could take months for the process to be concluded.

Impeachment would deprive Zuma of the perks and benefits normally afforded to former heads of state.

The deputy president would become president.


There could be two scenarios under which Zuma could resign.

He could decide to relinquish power – likely the most dignified option.

This route is currently being considered by the ANC as it would “not embarrass the president”, said Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, a political science lecturer at Stellenbosch University.

The second resignation scenario is that Zuma could be recalled by his party and pushed to resign.

If he refused to step down as head of state, the party could then trigger a parliamentary motion to get rid of him.

In 2008 when Jacob Zuma was ANC party chief, it recalled head of state Thabo Mbeki and shortened his term by eight months.

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

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

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