Johannesburg - The latest damning Constitutional Court ruling against President Jacob Zuma means newly elected ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa faces the daunting task of persuading his National Executive Committee (NEC) to act quickly on his predecessor.
The ruling in the ConCourt on Friday obliges the ANC, the governing party in Parliament, to immediately set rules which would allow it to impeach Zuma for violating his oath of office.
But the ANC will only discuss the matter when it meets for its first NEC meeting of 2018 in East London next month.
This was confirmed by the ANC’s deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, who said the organisation had noted the ConCourt judgment.
Duarte said the NEC would study the judgment and discuss “its full implications” when it meets on January 10.
Legal and constitutional expert advocate Paul Hoffman SC said the ANC had set a precedent with its recall of president Thabo Mbeki in 2008.
He said Zuma’s own sense of self-preservation should have persuaded him to resign. “If he won’t, the NEC knows what to do,” Hoffman said.
“It has the Mbeki precedent to guide it,” he insisted.
However, he pointed out that the majority judgment had not prescribed what needed to be done in any detail.
He said it was up to Parliament to make a reasonable decision to comply with the tenets of Section 89 on the impeachment of a president.
“This would surely involve the president in some or other form of hearing as to whether he is in breach of the constitution. He would be better advised to quit, hold on to his pension rights and get himself ready for the trial on 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering which he has so adroitly been avoiding for so long,” Hoffman said.
Reacting to the judgment Speaker of the National Assembly Baleka Mbete said the ConCourt had not made any adverse findings against herself, but against the entire Parliament for not implementing Section 89 of the Constitution.
“The Court has thus ordered that the Rules of the Assembly be amended without delay to comply with Section 237 of the Constitution, which instructs that all constitutional obligations be performed diligently and without delay.
“The National Assembly’s Rules Committee had already initiated a process, as part of its overhaul of rules, to outline a procedure to be followed in implementing Section 89 of the Constitution,” Mbete said.
She said Parliament would ensure the finalisation of the Assembly’s rules, in line with the ConCourt’s order.
“We note and agree with the strong reservation and caution underscored by both the Chief Justice (Mogoeng Mogoeng) and the Deputy Chief Justice (Raymond Zondo) in the minority judgment regarding encroachment of the judiciary into the internal functioning of the national legislature. Parliament, however, respects the majority judgment and will comply fully with it.”
However, the EFF criticised the Chief Justice for his dissenting judgment.
Secretary-general Godrich Gardee was scathing in his response to Justice Mogoeng’s comment that the majority judgment amounted to “judicial overreach”.
But Hoffman said the Chief Justice had done nothing wrong in his minority judgment.
“Minority judgments help to develop the law and the constitution.
“The approach of the Chief Justice is not currently binding as he is bound by the majority, but he does bring the doctrine of the separation of powers into sharp focus in relation to matters of this nature.
“The doctrine is part of our law and its application can be tricky, depending on the circumstances and the court’s interpretation of the applicability of the doctrine in any given case.
“In this matter it is felicitous that the majority judgment is the one that will be enforced. The shenanigans of the Zuma years have done untold damage to the country,” Hoffman said.
“In baseball, you will be given out after three strikes. In South African politics, unlike baseball, President Zuma appears to be living a charmed life; whether this will continue remains to be seen.
“Not even his (remaining) friends in the ANC will want the spectacle of him being grilled by the attack dogs of the opposition in the National Assembly once the ConCourt judgment is implemented, as it must be in the weeks ahead.”
On Friday, the ConCourt ruled: “The failure of the National Assembly to make rules regulating the removal of a President in terms of section 89(1) of the Constitution constitutes a violation of Section 89.
Justice Chris Jafta said Parliament must comply with Section 237 and make rules to allow for the impeachment of Zuma “without delay”.
“The failure by the National Assembly to determine whether the President had breached Section 89(1)(a) or (b) of the Constitution is inconsistent with this section and section 42(3) of the Constitution,” Justice Jafta said.
The UDM and Cope were among opposition parties that welcomed the judgment.