Director-general in the presidency‚ Cassius Lubisi‚ has entered his boss’s impeachment fray‚ saying there was a serious misconception in South Africa that a president can be impeached when only a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly was the requirement for such removal.
Lubisi said he was making the comments in his personal capacity when he wrote on a Black Empowerment Foundation discussion platform on Tuesday.
The EFF‚ aided by the UDM and COPE‚ brought an application before the Constitutional Court in a bid to have President Jacob Zuma impeached by the National Assembly. The opposition parties told the court that they wanted the establishment of a fact-finding ad hoc committee that would force Zuma to answer questions about his conduct during the Nkandla debacle.
After more than seven hours of argument‚ the Constitutional Court reserved judgment on Tuesday.
However‚ Lubisi argued that such a provision was non-existent in the South African constitution.
“Let’s get the concepts right first. Many believe ‘impeachment’ means ‘removal from office’. Far from it! ‘Impeachment’ means indicting a public figure‚ in this case the President‚” said Lubisi
He said in countries where impeachment operates‚ you can impeach a president‚ but not remove him from office. He cited former US president Bill Clinton’s 1999 Monica Lewinsky sex scandal as a case in point‚ where the president was impeached but didn’t lose his job.
“But the impeachment/indictment did not lead to removal from office. The reason for this is that once a president is impeached‚ he or she must be tried by a component of the legislature‚ in the case of the US‚ the Senate. The Senate can either acquit or find the accused guilty. In the case of Clinton‚ he was found not guilt by the Senate‚ which is why he was then not removed‚” said Lubisi.
The former KwaZulu-Natal education head of department further argued that there was no such provision in the South African constitution‚ where either the National Assembly or the National Council of Province can try the president.
“[There is] none whatsoever! The Constitutional Court or any other court‚ for that matter‚ has zero powers to remove the president. Any such attempt would be unconstitutional‚ and is frankly a waste of time and money!” he said.
Lubisi said the only provision that comes anywhere close to a removal of a president by impeachment and trial‚ is Section 89 of the constitution.
The section states 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) a serious violation of the Constitution or the law; b) serious misconduct; or c) inability to perform the functions of office“.
“As can be seen in this section‚ there is no provision for impeachment and trial. It is a matter of a debate in the National Assembly and then a vote‚ much the same way as it happens with a vote of no confidence‚ as stipulated in Section 102‚” Lubisi said.
“With that said‚ we should all disabuse ourselves from the notion that a South African president can be impeached. Nothing of the sort exists in the South African constitution! What this leaves us with is the use of Section 89‚ which requires a two thirds majority of members‚ not just those who happen to be around when the vote is taken.
“Now‚ if you fail to garner votes to secure a simple majority in a vote of no confidence‚ what chance in hell do you have to secure a two thirds majority?“