Type of committee to decide president’s fate being discussed
January 12, 2018
Cape Town, South Africa: South African President Jacob Zuma could be removed from office within six months following a meeting by a subcommittee on the review of National Assembly rules dealing with the removal of a sitting President this week.
Parliament met to discuss the formulation of rules to deliberate on draft procedure for implanting Section 98 of the Constitution which deals with the removal of the President.
The subcommittee is expected to have draft rules ready within two weeks and the final document mid-February for adoption by the National Assembly.
Section 89 of the Constitution provides that the National Assembly, by a resolution adopted with a supporting vote of at least two-thirds of its members, may remove the President from office only on the grounds of a serious violation of the Constitution or the law; serious misconduct; or inability to perform the functions of office.
In December a majority judgment in the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) found that Parliament failed to hold President Jacob Zuma accountable over the Nkandla issue.
According to the ConCourt summary on its ruling the application was brought by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), United Democratic Movement (UDM), and the Congress of the People (COPE) against the Speaker of the National Assembly (Speaker) and President Jacob Zuma (President) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) was joined later as an intervening party.
The application was brought in the Court on the basis that the Constitutional Court has exclusive jurisdiction in the matter; alternatively the applicants sought direct access on the basis that, because of the issues involved in the matter, it was in the interests of justice that the matter be brought directly to the Constitutional Court.
The matter is connected with the Nkandla judgment of the ConCourt and the President’s failure to implement the Public Protector’s remedial action for some time after the Public Protector had released her report on the Nkandla project.
In the application the applicants and the DA sought various orders including declaring that the National Assembly failed to put in place mechanisms and processes to hold the President accountable for failing to implement the Public Protector’s remedial action in regard to the Nkandla project and an order that project and an order that the National Assembly failed to hold the President accountable for the same conducts since the ConCourt handed down judgment in the Nkandla matter.
They also sought an order compelling the National Assembly to convene a committee to investigate whether the President was guilty of any impeachable conduct under section 89 of the Constitution.
The Court ordered the Assembly to make such rules regulating the section 89(1) procedure.
Following the judgment, Parliament has 120 days to decide what the rules of impeachment against Zuma are going to be and within 120 days thereafter, they need to act on those rules on the president.
Subcommittee Chairperson, Richard Mdakane, said although this had been the subject of the recent ConCourt judgement, the subcommittee had for some time been in the process of amending the rules of the National Assembly.
“Although the Constitution provides for the removal of a sitting President, it does not set out the procedures of how that should be done and the Constitutional Court has tasked Parliament to ‘without delay’ craft the rules of how such removal should occur,” Mdakane said in a Parliamentary statement.
The common thread in the subcommittee meeting was for the term “serious offence” as prescribed by Section 89 of the Constitution to be defined in the new rules of the Assembly.
The subcommittee also spent some time debating the format that the body should take that recommends impeachment procedures.
The subcommittee resolved for a proposal to be drafted on the possible way forward on the mechanism for impeachment. This includes the various options raised by Members of Parliament (MPs). The options include, a panel of judges to deliberate on the removal of a sitting President, a body comprising of a combination of legal experts and MPs and the last a committee of Parliament constituted in a similar fashion like the subcommittee on the Review of National Assembly rules.
The current debate in the subcommittee is what type of committee this should be. A committee of independent people has been proposed – research is being conducted on this. In Parliament a standard approach is for a committee of Parliamentarians.
According to the Constitution anyone who has been removed from the office of President in terms of subsection (1) (a) or (b) may not receive any benefits of that office, and may not serve in any public office.