Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos has joined the chorus of South Africans wondering what "negotiations" are going on between President Jacob Zuma and his deputy and ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa. De Vos, who is the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town, says there appears to be no legal reason for negotiations over Zuma's exit to be taking place, as these cannot, legally speaking, be about who is the next president or who will be part of the new Cabinet.
He said it was also not legal for the two to be discussing immunity from prosecution for Zuma, as has been rumoured. The DA has threatened legal action if an immunity deal is granted. De Vos asked what the negotiations could be about since an immunity deal is not legally permissible.
On Thursday, Business Day reported that Ramaphosa was negotiating "pertinent issues" with Zuma. Zuma reportedly wants a chance to say goodbye to his Cabinet before he leaves, for example, and little else is known about what his demands could be. De Vos said the secret nature of the negotiations was like telling votes, "trust us".
The ANC's top six officials reportedly met with Zuma on Sunday night to ask him to resign. He refused and the ANC called a meeting of its national executive committee (NEC), but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. On Wednesday night, TimesLive obtained a recording of ANC treasurer-general Paul Mashatile telling investors at the Mining Indaba that the ANC NEC would have recalled Zuma if that meeting had gone ahead. De Vos said there are various ways for Zuma to leave.
Negotiations cannot be about who is in the next Cabinet because that is for the next president to decide, he said.
There is, therefore, nothing in law that seems to justify these negotiations.
He said that either the president stays, resigns, or is removed by the National Assembly, so there could be no reason for negotiations.