The difference between impeachment and no-confidence

Impeachment, no-confidence – the Democratic Alliance and other opposition political parties have tried them both several times in recent months, in their attempts to remove president Jacob Zuma from office.

On Tuesday, a fresh bid to impeach the president failed in Parliament, with the opposition defeated by 233 votes to 143, with no abstentions.

The motion to impeach Zuma was tabled following a Constitutional Court ruling which found that the president to violated upholding the constitution by failing to abide by the public protector’s remedial action on his private residence at Nkandla.

Before April’s impeachment attempt, however, the DA failed in March to push a vote of no confidence in the president – having tried the same route previously in 2015.

Legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright highlights the difference between impeachment and a motion of no confidence.

What’s the difference?

Impeachment is the s89 procedure which requires a serious violation of the Constitution, serious misconduct or inability to perform the office and a 2/3 vote in the National Assembly that removes the president from office.

And the consequences of such a move can be seen in s89(2).

This is contrasted to a vote of no confidence under s102(2) that has no specific grounds and needs a simple majority vote in favour, leading to a forced resignation.

  1. Removal of President

(1)        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.

(2)        Anyone who has been removed from the office of President in terms of subsection (1)(a) or (b) may not receive any benefits of that office, and may not serve in any public office.

  1. Motions of no confidence

(1)        If the National Assembly, by a vote supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the cabinet excluding the president, the president must reconstitute the cabinet.

(2)        If the National Assembly, by a vote supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the president, the president and the other members of the cabinet and any deputy ministers must resign.

Parliament has dedicated a section on its website to explaining the key differences between the two sections.

Fast Facts: Removal of the President from Office.

Key differences between Section 89 and Section 102

Both provisions deal with removal from office. The voting thresholds are prescribed in each of the two provisions.

Section 89 deals ONLY with the removal of the President whereas section 102 (1) deals with the removal of the Cabinet excluding the President and 102 (2) deals with the removal of the President.

If the vote of no confidence is only against the cabinet, in terms of 102 (1) the President is directed to reconstitute the Cabinet.

If the vote of no confidence is in terms of 102 (2) the President, Deputy Presidents and other members of the Cabinet are all directed by the Constitution to resign.

If the President is removed in terms of section 89 (1) (a) and (b) the President will not receive any benefits of that office and may not serve in any public office.

Therefore, in terms of 89 (2) any President who has been removed from office can never work for government again.

In other words, the consequence of section 102 is the same as a resignation/resignations.

Section 89 is tantamount to dismissal as per labour terms and is commonly referred to as “impeachment.”

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The difference between impeachment and no-confidence