South Africa PM/president removal?

I have been wanting to address this issue, but have lacked time. Fortunately, Alan came to my rescue. Here, moved from a previous comment thread, is some information from Alan. (Thanks for planting, Alan!)

South Africa may be about to experience its first presidential removal. The relevant provision of the constitution is:

102. Motions of no confidence

If the National Assembly, by a vote supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the Cabinet excluding the President, the President must reconstitute the Cabinet.

If the National Assembly, by a vote supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the President, the President and the other members of the Cabinet and any Deputy Ministers must resign.

[Alan again.] If the motion is successful the speaker acts as president until the assembly elects a new president. A new election only happens if the assembly does not complete an election within 30 days.

[MSS again] My subject line deliberately points to the unusual case of South Africa’s institutions: the country’s constitution is clearly parliamentary (fused origin–i.e. there are no separate executive elections–and fused survival in the sense of executive dependence on parliamentary confidence). Yet, rather unusually for a parliamentary system, the head of the parliamentary majority is also the head of state. Thus he really is both a prime minister and president, and his title is the latter. He is also subject to term limits.

To make things even more unusual, from a parliamentary standpoint, the ruling ANC replaced its leader a while ago (from Mbeki to Zuma), yet the PM/president was not changed. This sort of ‘dyarchy’ is not unheard of, but is rare in parliamentary systems. (Various aspects of this developing dyarchy have been covered in past plantings: just click on the country name in the “Planted in” line and they will come up on the same page.)

0 thoughts on “South Africa PM/president removal?

  1. Morgan Tsvangirai has also called for Mbeki’s removal, although the immediate cause of the ANC’s decision was a judge finding Mbeki interfered with the prosecution of Jacob Zuma, who beat Mbeki in the election for ANC president and presumably will succeed him as the next president of the republic. Tsvangirai’s dissatisfaction is with Mbeki’s less than stellar performance as AU/SADC mediator in the Zimbabwe election dispute.

  2. Here’s an interesting question: what would these developments mean for the continuing debate on electoral reform in South Africa?

    A March 2008 paper I read mentioned four different options that are being canvassed–but actually a fifth, STV, was mentioned in the very end.

  3. It’s seriously tempting to push for it to be known as the Cape Town system. I suspect it will spread to Canberra the next time a republic is proposed here.

    The 1999 referendum failed because the major parties insisted on an president appointed by parliamentary supermajority who would not threaten the prime minister’s mandate, while clearly the popular majority wanted an elected ceremonial president. The appointed model prevailed at the constitutional convention and was decisively rejected at referendum.

    Oddly enough, John Howard, the monarchist prime minister of the day, became famous for assuming ceremonial functions that had traditionally belonged to the governor-general, arguing for example that he, not the governor-general, should open the Olympics and largely supplanting the GG from the ceremonial commander-in-chief relationship with the armed forces.

  4. This may also be a case where the deputy president’s interest diverges from her principal’s. If Mbeki resigns before a vote of no confidence his cabinet survives him and the deputy president has up to 30 days as acting president. Section 90 and 91. But if the resignation comes after a motion of no confidence the entire cabinet must resign. That includes the deputy president and the speaker then becomes acting president. Section 102. On the hand, if Mbeki’s deputy jumps ship Mbeki can in theory dismiss her.

  5. Looks like Mbeki is soon to make it official:

    All eyes are on the Speaker of Parliament -Baleka Mbete as President Mbeki is expected to resign from his post on Tuesday. Mbete has been tipped to become the Acting President. Mbete will be the country’s first female Head of State. [SABC]

  6. “It’s seriously tempting to push for it to be known as the Cape Town system.”

    “The Pretorian system” would sound even cooler…

  7. It would be excessively praetorian to name the system for Pretoria, the seat of the executive power, rather than Cape Town, which is the seat of the parliament.

  8. Disregarding any groaning, Mbeki deserves much of the criticism he is encountering. It’s a bit sad that no-one’s mentioned that, like many leaders in new democracies, Mbeki had a chance to repeal the term limit and continue in office indefinitely, and, unlike many leaders in new democracies, he rejected it.

  9. There do seem to be a large number in the inner palace who are prepared to fall on their own swords if the leader is defeated.

  10. A number of the resigning ministers, including the finance minister, have said they’re prepared to join the new cabinet. On a purely aesthetic note, I may be forced to scream if I have to read another whipped together from Wikipedia article on the alleged crisis in South Africa. Changing the chief executive by constitutional means is not a crisis.

  11. Well, it’s possible to have a political/ leadership crisis (for the governing party) that isn’t a constitutional crisis (for the whole polity).

  12. Most reports I’ve seen don’t speak about an ANC crisis. They claim that South Africa is in crisis. Okay, it’s juts a media habit of finding crisis where none exists so you can write more exciting ledes, but it also has the effect of insulating the executive from accountability if removing the executive by constitutional means is always a crisis.

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