How Zuma might leave office

South African President Jacob Zuma attends the opening of the Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government during the 30th annual African Union summit in Addis Ababa on January 28, 2018. Photo: SIMON MAINA / AFP

CAPE TOWN – Pressure has ramped up on South Africa's scandal-tarred president, Jacob Zuma, to leave office ahead of elections next year.

Here are the ways by which he could leave office early:

Vote of no confidence

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 MPs from Zuma's own African National Congress (ANC) 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.

READ: Twitter prepares for a Zuma resignation with #ZumaIsGoneParty

The Speaker of Parliament would become president for a maximum 30 days.

The radical opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party has tabled another motion of no confidence in the president, which is due to be debated in parliament on February 22.


The impeachment process provides three grounds by which lawmakers can strip the president of office: a serious breach of the constitution; serious misconduct; or incapacity to carry out his or her duties.

Two-thirds - 267 - of the members of the National Assembly would have to vote for the president's removal for this pathway to succeed.

A president removed by impeachment is replaced by the deputy president, and also loses the perks and benefits normally afforded to former heads of state.

However, the prospects for this are unclear. Parliament's oversight of the president has been criticised as being too slack.

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 R7.8-million for upgrades deemed unrelated to security or his posiiton ss president. 

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

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


There are two main scenarios under which Zuma could resign.

He could decide to relinquish power – the most dignified option, and the option seen as most likely at present.

READ: Zuma concludes Cabinet meeting where his recall 'was not discussed'

This route would "not embarrass the president", Collette Schulz-Herzenberg, a political science lecturer at Stellenbosch University, said.

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

Zuma could also be "recalled" by his party if a meeting of its National Executive Committee(NEC) passed a resolution demanding he quit. 

If he refused to step down as head of state, the party could then trigger a parliamentary motion of no confidence to get rid of him.

The cancelling of the emergency NEC meeting scheduled for 7 February makes this scenario increasingly unlikely.

In 2008 when Jacob Zuma was ANC president, the party 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.


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