While it is unlikely that today’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting will make a decision on the president’s future or that Ramaphosa will make reference to this on Saturday, there are urgent behind-the-scenes discussions on the fate of the president.
On Monday, the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) warned that Zuma’s removal as head of state would cost the ANC votes in rural areas and divide the governing party. And Ramaphosa and his Top Six’s visit to KZN this week was seen as an attempt to charm a region known for its staunch support for Zuma.
According to constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos, there were three legitimate ways to unseat the president - impeachment, a no-confidence motion or resignation.
“A recall by the NEC would not in itself have any legal standing as the president of the country is legally elected by the National Assembly, not the NEC,” said De Vos.
He said that if the NEC recalled Zuma and he refused to resign, they would then instruct the ANC caucus in the Assembly to institute and support a motion of no confidence in Zuma, and he would then, in effect, be fired as president of the country.
A third option was that of impeachment. A president can be impeached for violating the constitution or the law, or for an inability to perform functions of the office.
Last month, a Constitutional Court majority judgment found that Parliament had failed to determine whether Zuma breached the constitution in the way he dealt with former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s Nkandla report and that the Assembly must comply with the constitution and fulfil its obligation to determine if the president breached the constitution.
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The Constitutional Court ordered Parliament “to outline a procedure to be followed” when dealing with impeachment of a president. The subcommittee on the review of rules would deliberate on the rules dealing with the removal of the president. Votes needed in Parliament to remove Zuma through impeachment were 267 out of 400 members, while 201 can see him removed by a vote of no confidence.
But political analyst Somadoda Fikeni believed the no-confidence and impeachment options would not be necessary. “It will make it easier for the ANC if he voluntarily steps down, and it will not expose cracks in the newly elected leadership. I doubt resistance (to Zuma stepping down) will be as strong as we think,” said Fikeni.
Although Zuma still enjoyed support in the Top Six and the NEC, Fikeni said refusal to go could further damage the ANC brand.
“That would put the party in a difficult spot in their efforts to fund-raise and campaign for the elections, but those are challenges that can still be managed. I don’t see him staying in power until the end of this year,” he said.
Fikeni said today’s NEC meeting would serve as a test on whether the new “unity” leadership was gelling, had consensus on a range of issues, including impeachment of Zuma, and was transcending the factionalism in the party.