Dissolving Parliament: Could The Opposition Crack It?

The statement is dramatic, but actually getting it to work will be impossible without 50 ANC votes.
Opposition party leaders confer shortly before voting during the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma last year.
Opposition party leaders confer shortly before voting during the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma last year.
POOL New / Reuters

Opposition parties made a surprise announcement on Monday – after President Jacob Zuma is removed, they will propose a motion to have Parliament dissolved entirely.

It's a drastic step – the nuclear option in South Africa's political environment, forcing an early national election. But could it actually work?

In a joint statement made after leaders of opposition parties met on Monday, DA boss Mmusi Maimane said that the group – consisting of the EFF, DA, Congress of the People (COPE), United Democratic Movement (UDM) and other smaller parties – will not fight in the factional battles of the ANC.

"We must proceed to the dissolution of Parliament," Maimane said. "We say that on the basis ... that it cannot be that we enter factional battles [that] seek to propose that we must support Cyril Ramaphosa or anybody from the ANC."

"It is the view of the collective that the ANC has been complicit in violating the Constitution, in defending criminality ... We want to resort to Section 50 of the Constitution, which calls for the dissolution of Parliament."

Section 50 does not make their job any easier.

The Constitution says the president must dissolve the National Assembly if a resolution is adopted to dissolve Parliament with a supporting vote of a majority of its members. It also states that three years need to have passed since the assembly was elected.

Three years have passed, but getting a majority vote may pose a problem. The ANC holds 249 of the 400 seats in Parliament. Opposition parties would need 201 votes for the motion to be passed. If every member of the opposition votes for the motion, they will only secure 151 votes.

For the ANC, voting with the opposition on this motion would be like hammering the nails in its own coffin.

Once Parliament is dissolved, section 49 of the Constitution will kick in.

It says that if the National Assembly is dissolved in terms of section 50, the president must call and set dates for an election, which must be held within 90 days of the date on which the assembly was dissolved.

This will force the country into early elections – something the ANC, and its president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will definitely not want.


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