President Jacob Zuma will be forced to resign along with his entire cabinet if South African lawmakers vote in favour of Tuesday’s no-confidence motion.

After Zuma resigns, the parliamentary Speaker would become acting president and the National Assembly would then need to elect a new president from its members within 30 days. The ruling ANC party has a large majority in the house, and would pick the incoming national leader – but the party could possibly be torn apart by the resignation of Zuma and the debate over who should succeed him.

While analysts say the party’s executive might go for a candidate such as the Speaker herself, Baleka Mbete, the MPs might back deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa. Zuma’s former wife and Ramaphosa’s main rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, would not be eligible as she is not a lawmaker at present.

“Passing a vote of no confidence may create chaos within the governing ANC,” says constitutional law expert, Pierre de Vos. Divisions between MPs and the party executive “could lead to instability and even open warfare,” he said.

The ANC is already entering a period of change, and the timing of the vote adds to the uncertainty. Zuma must resign as ANC party chief and step down as national president in December, ahead of the 2019 general election.

If he is ousted today, “all hell would break out within the party ahead of its conference in December” says Roger Southall, a professor at the University of the Witwaterstrand in Johannesburg.

It has been widely seen that Zuma is preparing for his ex-wife Dlamini-Zuma to succeed him as party chief in December and then as national president – but if, against odds, he is forced out of office by the vote, all bets would be off.

Photography Yazeed Kamaldien

 

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