Cape Town – With increasing pressure on President Jacob Zuma to resign or for the ANC to remove him, it is worth noting that there are three ways that a South African president can leave office before the five-year term comes to an end.
Motion of no confidence
This is mandated by Section 102 of the Constitution.
A majority of the members of the National Assembly is needed to pass such a motion. If passed, the president, Cabinet and deputy ministers must resign.
If this happens, the president still keeps the benefits afforded to a former president.
The Constitution doesn't use the word "impeach", but Section 89 of the Constitution allows for a process that is called impeachment in other parts of the world.
The National Assembly must adopt, with a two-thirds supporting vote, a resolution to remove the president from office, only on the grounds of a serious violation of the Constitution or the law, serious misconduct or an inability to perform the functions of the office.
If the president is removed through this method, he may not receive any benefits of that office, and may not serve in any public office.
After the Constitutional Court's recent ruling that Parliament must amend its rules to fulfil its Constitutional obligations, Parliament said in a statement that the National Assembly 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.
"In this regard, Parliament will ensure finalisation of the Assembly's rules, in line with the Court's order," read Parliament's statement.
The process will probably entail that a motion is passed in the National Assembly to establish an ad hoc committee to determine whether the president failed in the abovementioned duties. The committee will then present its recommendation to the National Assembly and, if it is to remove the president, it will have to be adopted with a two-thirds majority.
This process could take months.
A president can vacate his office by simply resigning.
Electing a new president
After one of these processes has been concluded, the only item on the National Assembly's agenda will be the election of a new president. During this period, the speaker will be the acting president.
The Chief Justice must determine a date, within 30 days of the vacancy occurring, for the National Assembly to elect a new president from its members. If there is more than one candidate, this will be done by secret ballot.
If this is not done within 30 days, the speaker must dissolve Parliament and new national elections must be held.