AP Explains: South Africa’s leader is told to go. What now?
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The leadership of South Africa’s ruling party says it wants President Jacob Zuma to resign promptly and bring an end to political uncertainty and months of anger over multiple scandals. The African National Congress expects Zuma to respond on Wednesday to its decision, taken after lengthy private talks between the president and his likely successor, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. But what if the president continues to resist the calls to step down? Here’s a look at what might happen next.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
After a 13-hour meeting of the ANC’s leadership, the party’s secretary-general on Tuesday said Zuma should resign promptly and that a response is expected from the president on Wednesday. Zuma had agreed to resign but wanted to stay in power for three more months. The ANC leaders refused his request.
WHAT IF ZUMA AGREES TO RESIGN?
If the president agrees to go, the ANC will call a special sitting of parliament to formalize Zuma’s resignation. Lawmakers are then expected to elect Ramaphosa as South Africa’s next president.
WHAT IF ZUMA REFUSES TO GO?
If Zuma resists, he will face a vote of no confidence in parliament. An opposition-backed motion of no confidence has been scheduled for Feb. 22, but its sponsors want the vote to be moved up to this week.
The motion will need over 50 percent of votes in the 400-seat National Assembly. The opposition, which holds about 40 percent of seats, almost certainly will vote against Zuma. It is not clear how many members of the ANC, which holds about 60 percent of seats, will vote against him. If Zuma loses, he would no longer be president and his Cabinet would be dissolved.
“This is the worst-case scenario,” said William Gumede, professor at the school of governance at the University of the Witswatersrand. “It would draw out this transition period even longer and South Africa would have a longer period of uncertainty about its leadership.” The ANC would appear divided and ineffective while opposition parties would be instrumental in bringing Zuma down.
WHY IS ZUMA BEING TOLD TO RESIGN?
The president has faced multiple corruption allegations, although he says he has done nothing wrong. South Africa’s top court has ruled that he violated the constitution following an investigation of multi-million-dollar upgrades to his private home using state money. A judicial commission is about to start a probe of alleged looting of state enterprises by Zuma’s associates, and prosecutors are expected to announce soon whether they will reinstate corruption charges tied to an arms deal two decades ago.
WHAT DOES ZUMA WANT?
One reason the president likely has resisted calls for his resignation is the possibility that he could face criminal prosecution. As the new president, Ramaphosa would not have the power to grant Zuma immunity from prosecution. But he would have the authority to have the state pay Zuma’s legal fees and, if Zuma were convicted, he would have the power to grant a pardon.
If Zuma refuses to step down and faces off against the ANC leadership in a vote of no confidence, he could lose any terms agreed upon. Zuma already has survived several votes of no confidence and may be convinced he can win this one, too.