Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos has joined the chorus of South Africans wondering what "negotiations" are going on between President Jacob Zuma and his deputy and ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. De Vos, who is the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town, says there appears to be no legal reason for negotiations over Zuma's exit to be taking place, as these cannot, legally speaking, be about who is the next president or who will be part of the new Cabinet.
He said it was also not legal for the two to be discussing immunity from prosecution for Zuma, as has been rumoured. The DA has threatened legal action if an immunity deal is granted. De Vos asked what the negotiations could be about since an immunity deal is not legally permissible.
1) We are told negotiations are happening between the ANC President and the President of the country about a "transition". But what are they negotiating about? Can't (and should not) negotiate about immunity as that cannot legally be given.— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) February 8, 2018
On Thursday, Business Day reported that Ramaphosa was negotiating "pertinent issues" with Zuma. Zuma reportedly wants a chance to say goodbye to his Cabinet before he leaves, for example, and little else is known about what his demands could be. De Vos said the secret nature of the negotiations was like telling votes, "trust us".
2) Now, in a democracy, it is a bit odd that we are told there is this negotiation but we are not told what the negotiation is about or why it is necessary at all. It feels like we are being told "trust us", but we won't trust you (the voters) by telling you what is happening.— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) February 8, 2018
The ANC's top six officials reportedly met with Zuma on Sunday night to ask him to resign. He refused and the ANC called a meeting of its national executive committee (NEC), but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. On Wednesday night, TimesLive obtained a recording of ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile telling investors at the Mining Indaba that the ANC NEC would have recalled Zuma if that meeting had gone ahead. De Vos said there are various ways for Zuma to leave.
3) Of course, President Zuma can refuse to resign when asked to do so by the NEC or by the "top 6" or by Cyril. Then he can be removed by either a vote of no confidence or impeachment by the National Assembly (If ANC wishes to remove him, of course).— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) February 8, 2018
Negotiations cannot be about who is in the next Cabinet because that is for the next president to decide, he said.
4) If there is either resignation or removal a new President is elected by the NA. That President decides who serves in the cabinet, usually after consulting with party leaders (President Zuma no longer in leadership). So "negotiations" cannot (or should not) be about cabinet.— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) February 8, 2018
There is, therefore, nothing in law that seems to justify these negotiations.
5) So what on earth are the content of these alleged "negotiations" - from the outside there seems to be nothing to negotiate about. At least not anything that would make sense from legal point of view.— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) February 8, 2018
He said that either the president stays, resigns, or is removed by the National Assembly, so there could be no reason for negotiations.
6) Maybe somebody can help me and point me to any statement that actually informs voters on why a "negotiation" is necessary and what the "negotiation" is about. Surely, either President stays, or he resigns or is removed by NA? A negotiation does not feature in these scenarios?— Pierre de Vos (@pierredevos) February 8, 2018