Quote of the week

Senekal last week had nothing to do with solutions. It was all about politicians’ testosterone. It was all about politicians’ egos. What useful idea came out of all that heat and noise generated by all those politicians in Senekal last week? There is nothing. Nothing that makes SA a better place. Nothing that leads us to a better understanding of race relations in SA after 1994. Nothing that is a solution to farm murders – many of whose victims are poorly paid, desperate black people – or a solution to the incredibly horrendous murder and crime problem in this country.

Justice Malala
Sunday Times Daily
20 September 2008

ANC and President in need of a constitutional adviser?

The ANC and the President seem to be rather confused about the clear provisions in the Constitution regarding what happens when a President decides to resign. At the news conference earlier today to announce the decision of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) to “recall” President Mbeki, Gwede Mantashe said that the Constitution was silent about what must happen when a sitting President resigns and referred to “Parliamentary processes” that will deal with this situation.

Now the Presidency has issued a statement saying that he accepts the decision of the ANC and then continues:

Following the decision of the national executive committee of the African National Congress to recall President Thabo Mbeki, the president has obliged and will step down after all constitutional requirements have been met.

This seems rather perplexing as section 90 of the Constitution makes it very clear what happens when a President resigns. This section states that when a vacancy occurs in the office of President, an office-bearer in the order below acts as President:

  1. The Deputy President.
  2. A Minister designated by the President.
  3. A Minister designated by the other members of the Cabinet.
  4. The Speaker, until the National Assembly designates one of its other members.

If the President resigns (or if he dies or is removed by a vote of no confidence in terms of section 102) a vacancy occurs in the office of the President and this section kicks in. Simple as that. Parliament is not involved at all in the process of designating an acting President and there are no “Parliamentary processes” or “constitutional requirements” to be met. I am therefore not sure what the ANC and the President is talking about. Are they confused?

The Parliament only becomes involved if the President refuses to resign and a vote of no confidence is instituted in terms of section 102(2) of the Constitution or when a new President must be elected from amongst the members of the National Assembly within 30 days after the president’s resignation.

All that is required is for the President to announce his resignation after which an acting President – in the order set out above – will take over until a new President is elected. If the National Assembly decides not to elect a new President, an election must then be held within 90 days.

This all seems rather clear to me. Am I missing something or is there something else going on that these gentlemen talk about “parliamentary processes” and “constitutiona requirements”? I really do not understand.

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