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A look back at the Presidents of South Africa since 1994

Third Standing Together

The President of the Republic of South Africa is the head of state and head of government under the Constitution of South Africa. From 1961 to 1994, the head of state was called the State President.

 

The President 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 founded to be distinct from the now defunct role of prime minister, but the two roles were merged in the 1983 constitution which specified a four-year term of office. The Constitution limits the president’s time in office to two five-year terms.

The first president to be elected under the new constitution was Nelson Mandela, and the incumbent president is Jacob Zuma.

Under the interim constitution (valid from 1994 to 1996), there was a Government of National Unity, in which a Member of Parliament (MP) from the largest opposition party was entitled to a position as Deputy President.

Along with Thabo Mbeki, the last State President, F. W. de Klerk also served as Deputy President, in his capacity as the leader of the National Party which was the second-largest party in the new Parliament. But De Klerk later resigned and went into opposition with his party. A voluntary coalition government continues to exist under the new constitution (adopted in 1996), although there have been no appointments of opposition politicians to the post of Deputy President.

The President is required to be a member of the National Assembly at the time of his election. Upon his election, he immediately resigns his seat for the duration of his term. The President may be removed either by a motion of no-confidence or an impeachment trial.

South Africa has an almost unique system for the election of its president.

Unlike other former British colonies and dominions who have adopted a parliamentary republican form of government and those that follow the Westminster system, South Africa’s President is both head of state and head of government and Commander-in-Chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Contrary to presidential systems around the world, the President of South Africa is elected by the Parliament of South Africa rather than by the people directly.

He is thus answerable to it in theory and able to influence legislation in practice as head of the majority party (presently the ANC).

The president is elected at the first sitting of parliament after an election, and whenever a vacancy arises. The president is elected by the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, from among its members. The chief justice must oversee the election. Once elected, a person is no longer a member of the national assembly. They must then be sworn in as president within five days of the election. Should a vacancy arise, the date of a new election must be set by the chief justice, but not more than 30 days after the vacancy occurs.

The Constitution has thus prescribed a system combining both parliamentary and presidential systems in a unique manner. Only Botswana and a few other countries use a similar system. Between 1996 and 2003 Israel combined the two systems in an opposite way, with an elected prime minister.

Although the presidency is the key institution, it is hedged about with numerous checks and balances that prevent its total dominance over the government, as was the case in many African countries. The presidential term is five years, with a limit of two terms. Thus the electoral system attempts (at least on paper) to prevent the accumulation of power in the president as was during Apartheid or in many other African countries.

Presidents of South Africa (1994–present)

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Ideologically an African nationalist and socialist, he served as President of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997.

Thabo Mbeki

Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki is a South African politician who served as the second post-apartheid President of South Africa from 14 June 1999 to 24 September 2008. On 20 September 2008, with about nine months left in his second term, Mbeki announced his resignation after being recalled by the National Executive Committee of the ANC, following a conclusion by judge C. R. Nicholson of improper interference in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for corruption. On 12 January 2009, the Supreme Court of Appeal unanimously overturned judge Nicholson’s judgment but the resignation stood.

Kgalema Motlanthe

Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe is a South African politician who served as President of South Africa between 25 September 2008 and 9 May 2009, following the resignation of Thabo Mbeki.

After the end of his presidency, Motlanthe was appointed as the Deputy President of South Africa by his successor, current South African President Jacob Zuma. Motlanthe served as Deputy President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 2007 until 2012, when he declined to run for a second term.

SONA

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is the current President of South Africa, elected by parliament following his party’s victory in the 2009 general election. He was re-elected in the 2014 election.

Zuma is the President of the African National Congress (ANC), the governing political party, and was Deputy President of South Africa from 1999-2005. Zuma is also referred to by his initials JZ and his clan name Msholozi. Zuma became the President of the ANC on 18 December 2007 after defeating incumbent Thabo Mbeki at the ANC conference in Polokwane. He was re-elected as ANC leader at the ANC conference in Mangaung on 18 December 2012, defeating challenger Kgalema Motlanthe by a large majority. Zuma was also a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), briefly serving on the party’s Politburo until he left the party in 1990.

Zuma has faced significant legal challenges. He was charged with rape in 2005, but was acquitted. He fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik’s conviction for corruption and fraud.

On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges, citing political interference, although the decision was successfully challenged by opposition parties, and the charges are now before the NPA for reconsideration. After extensive state-funded upgrades to his rural homestead at Nkandla, the Public Protector found that Zuma had benefited improperly from the expenditure, and the Constitutional Courtunanimously held in 2016’s Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker of the National Assembly that Zuma had failed to uphold the country’s constitution, resulting in calls for his resignation and a failed impeachment attempt in the National Assembly.

Over his eight increasingly embattled years in power, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has fended off five parliamentary no-confidence motions that would have forced him from office. On Tuesday, he is to face another, with a difference: Lawmakers will vote anonymously.

The speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete, announced late on Monday afternoon that a vote of no confidence would take place by secret ballot, following a request from a coalition of opposition parties.

More than 60 of the 249 lawmakers from Mr. Zuma’s party, the African National Congress, would have to rebel for the motion to pass — something analysts still deem unlikely. But he may find it harder to contain a bitter factional struggle within the A.N.C., which has dominated South African politics since the end of apartheid in 1994.


Sources: Wikipedia
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