Waiting for #Zexit: 3 ways Zuma might leave office

12 February 2018 - 13:51 By AFP and TimesLIVE
President Jacob Zuma.
President Jacob Zuma.
Image: Masi Losi

Pressure is mounting on President Jacob Zuma to leave office ahead of elections next year.

On Sunday, party leader Cyril Ramaphosa promised to bring "closure" to the crisis when the African National Congress's (ANC) top leadership meets on Monday to discuss Zuma's future.

We look at three ways by which Zuma could leave office early:

No confidence vote

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 from the African National Congress (ANC) 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.

The speaker of parliament would become president for a maximum 30 days.

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

The Democratic Alliance and other opposition parties are now requesting it be moved forwarded.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said, "South Africa cannot continue to be held in limbo while Ramaphosa and Zuma‚ and their respective factions‚ continue to fight over the terms of Zuma’s exit. We need a swift resolution to this impasse as soon as possible."


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.

If a president is removed by impeachment, he or she is replaced by the deputy president, and would lose 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.

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 could take months to conclude the process.


There are two main scenarios under which Zuma could resign. He could decide to relinquish power — likely the most dignified option.

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

Under the other scenario, Zuma could be “recalled” by his party when its National Executive Committee meets on Monday and effectively forced to step down.

If he refused to resign as head of state, the party could then trigger a parliamentary confidence vote to get rid of him.

In 2008 when Zuma was head of the ANC, it recalled head of state Thabo Mbeki and shortened his term by eight months. The party then ordered him to quit the presidency.

In this scenario, Ramaphosa - as deputy president - would take power and it would be up to the national assembly to pick a new president within 30 days.