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Separation of Presidency and PM offices in SA

24 March 2014, 07:08

THE PRESIDENT AS THE ACCUSED AND THE HEAD OF STATE: A MESS!

The Ombudsman Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela in doing her duty with excellence and passion, exposes the Achilles Heel of the Constitution of South Africa. The President currently functions as President, Prime Minister and Head a Political Party. Clearly, governance contradictions have arisen and call for a long lasting resolution.

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state and head of government under the Constitution of South Africa. (Wikipedia). He is elected by the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, and is usually the leader of the largest party, which has been the African National Congress since the first non-racial elections were held on 27 April 1994.

The role was originally founded to be distinct from the now defunct role of prime minister, but the two roles were merged in the 1983 constitution.

Presidential powers

IN COMPARISON, the Republic of Mauritius has an arrangement in which, “the President is the Head of State and Commander in Chief, and the Prime Minister is the Head of Government.

“The President shall uphold and defend the Constitution of Mauritius and ensure that the institutions of democracy and rule of law are protected, the fundamental rights of all are respected and the unity of diverse Mauritian nation is maintained and strengthened.

“Whilst in office, the President should not hold any other office of emolument, whether under the Constitution or otherwise and exercise any profession or calling or engage in any trade or business. The President is obliged to suspend his (or her) membership in any political party for the term in office. Upon assuming office, the authority and duties of the President in all other elected or appointed offices terminate automatically. These measures should theoretically help the President to function in a more independent and impartial manner.

“The office of the President has the mission to assist the President of the Republic in his duties to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and promote National Unity.

“The Prime Minister shall keep the President fully informed concerning the general conduct of the government of Mauritius and shall furnish the President with such information as he may request with respect to any particular matter relating to the government of Mauritius.”

Because the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa is an amalgam of “President” and “Prime Minister,” and the President as Head of State is also Comrade President of the African National Congress political party, we now have a tricky situation!

Public Protector Report 2014-03-19 17:09

The Public Protector released her report on the investigation she did on the Upgrades at the Inkandla Home of the Honourable President Jacob Zuma. Advocate Thuli Madonsela said she expected President Zuma to have acted to curtail the runaway expenditure when news of the exorbitant spending broke in December 2009.

"His failure to act in protection of state resources constitutes a violation of paragraph 2 of the executive ethics code and accordingly amounts to conduct that is inconsistent with his office as a member of cabinet, as contemplated by Section 96 of the Constitution."

Advocate Madonsela presented the report to The Presidency and said President Zuma must report to the National Assembly "on his comments and actions on this report" within 14 days.

The Presidency responded saying it notes the release of the Public Protector Report 19 Mar 2014. The President will study the findings and recommendations of the Public Protector in the context of the existing government interventions, and will communicate his response in due course. Enquiries: Mac Maharaj Cell: 079 879 3203

What is happening here is that the Public Protector presents to The Presidency findings that the Honourable President Jacob Zuma violated the executive ethics code and in this way conducted himself in a way that is inconsistent with his office as a member of cabinet. The President will study the findings and communicate his response in due course. End of story!

ARGUMENT FOR THE SEPARATION OF POWERS

I know that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 is reputed to be “the best constitution in the world, and may be difficult to alter. However, I wish that it were possible, as in the case of Mauritius, for the President of the Republic of South Africa to be elevated above the sectarianism of being involved in a political party. The Prime Minister would be separate from the Presidency, and afford the citizens of South Africa the possibility of presenting the Public Protector’s complaint about the Prime Minister to the State President, or vice versa, the complaint about the Presidency would go to the Prime Minister.

Now as things stand, we wait with bated breath to see how the Honourable President Jacob Zuma in the next 14 days works his magic in resolving the Nkandla matter.

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