Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS

Jacob Zuma has formally tendered his resignation, and SA could have a new president by midafternoon on Thursday.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu has instructed all of the party’s 249 MPs to attend Thursday’s special sitting of the National Assembly.

Mthembu said he had called “a three-line whip‚” which means no ANC MP is allowed to be absent‚ unless under exceptional circumstances.

“The three-line whip was called long before yesterday‚ so all members of the ANC have been called in and all of them are here‚ except those of course who cannot be here because of illness and so on‚” he said.

“I am confident that we’ll have almost all ANC MPs in attendance here. We have done headcounts (because) it’s my duty to do headcounts of all. So caucus is confident that everybody will be here‚ except those who‚ for very good reasons‚ can’t be here. Like one or two who are abroad.”

National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete received a letter from Zuma on Thursday morning informing her of his resignation as the president of the country.

His resignation is effective immediately, and the election of a new president has been brought forward to Thursday at 2pm, from Friday.

“The speaker has been informed by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng of his availability to preside over the National Assembly’s election of the new president this afternoon, February 15,” Parliament spokesman Moloto Mothapo said.

“This has necessitated that the election of the president, which was initially scheduled for Friday, February 16, be changed to today at 2pm. Effectively, this changes the agenda of today’s sitting of the National Assembly from considering a proposed motion of no confidence in the president, to that of electing a president.”

The office of ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu had already e-mailed MPs on Wednesday night‚ before Zuma had announced his resignation‚ to inform them of Mogoeng’s availability.

“The Speaker thanks the President Zuma for his service to the people of South Africa in the last eight years and wishes him well,” Mothapo said.

DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said he thought “the opposition was duty-bound” to offer up an alternative candidate to the ANC’s expected nominee‚ current party president and state deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.

Should this happen‚ he said‚ it would trigger a debate and then a secret ballot by MPs.

“What will be interesting to watch is what the Zuma faction of the ANC does. Will they do to their candidate what the party has done to Zuma? Will there be abstentions‚ or spoilt ballots‚ or will they cast their vote for an opposition candidate?” Steenhuisen asked on Thursday morning.

Mthembu said the ANC was not worried about such a challenge and they were confident Ramaphosa would win the election comfortably.

“Even if they do so‚ they will be given a wonderful hiding‚” he said.

If elected president‚ Ramaphosa will deliver the state of the nation address on Friday night after it was postponed last week amid Zuma’s refusal to step down.

Should Parliament elect a new president on Thursday‚ the previously postponed State of the Nation Address will most likely take place at the new scheduled time of 7pm on Friday.

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