What if JZ won’t go?

South African President, Jacob Zuma, jubilates after surviving a no-confidence vote by MP's in parliament in Cape Town Tuesday.(AP Photo)

If the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma succeeded yesterday in the National Assembly, then read no further, for what follows, is academic.

If, on the other hand, it failed as spectacularly as did the seven, which preceded it, the question remains: will Mr Zuma see out his second term in office?

That he must go, and as soon as possible, is axiomatic and not just within opposition ranks. The power brokers in the ANC, who have the best interests of country and party at heart, know that he must go.

Why else would the likes of Lindiwe Sisulu publicly speculate about the ANC according Mr Zuma immunity if he resigns from office?

For the record, there is no legal means by which the ANC or any other institution, statutory or otherwise, can grant Mr Zuma immunity in any way, shape or form. Constitutionally, his successor does have the power to pardon him, but only if he has been tried, convicted and sentenced.

Wily politician that he is, what are the chances that Mr Zuma will subject himself to the legal process that he has squandered millions of taxpayers money in avoiding, in the hope that said pardon will be forthcoming?

For how long that legal process might run and who might be in power at its conclusion is uncertain enough for him not to want to take that chance.

There is only one other opportunity for the ANC to get rid of Mr Zuma before the 2019 elections and that occasion will come to pass after the ANC’s elective conference in December.

In the same fashion that then President Thabo Mbeki became fair game in 2008 after Mr Zuma was elected president of the ANC at Polokwane in 2007, so too will Mr Zuma become vulnerable when his successor is elected.

That the ANC is biding its time for that eventuality is evidenced by secretary general Gwede Mantashe stating more than once on a public platform that “the ANC cannot recall a sitting president of the party” which although unsaid implies that the ANC can recall a president of the republic who is no longer a president of the ANC.

But what happens after December depends on which of the main contenders – Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa – wins, and how convincingly.

If the pundits are to be believed, Mr Ramaphosa is pulling ahead in the race for the presidency of the ANC and in much the same way that Hilary Clinton was seen as the better choice out of the two worst presidential candidates in American presidential election history, so too is Mr Ramaphosa seen as the lesser of two evils.

If the NDZ faction triumphs in December, and if its accompanying narrative is to believed, Mr Zuma’s ex-wife will move heaven and earth to ensure that he does not face prosecution.

This of course assumes, that Ms Dlamini-Zuma is herself not playing the long game and there is no truth to the rumour that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I’d hate to be in Mr Zuma’s shoes if he does submit himself to the legal process and his ex-wife simply folds her arms and sits back after he is convicted and sentenced.

If the Ramaphosa faction wins, the ANC is faced with the unenviable task of deciding which course of action is likely to be least destructive to its election prospects in the 2019 election; allowing Mr Zuma to serve out his second term while mitigating any further damage to the country and the party, or trying to force him out of office.

When the ANC decided to recall then president Thabo Mbeki on September 20 2008 after the now notorious Nicholson judgment overturned the 783 charges facing Mr Zuma, Mr Mbeki chose, like a good cadre, to abide by that decision and resign as president of the country in the interests of party unity, even though he was under no legal or constitutional obligation to do so.

If Mr Ramaphosa wins the ANC leadership contest with a convincing majority in the NEC in December, as is speculated, and chooses to recall Mr Zuma, how is he likely to respond?

If the disdain with which Mr Zuma has treated the country and the party since taking power is anything to go by, he is likely to lift the middle finger to the NEC, thus precipitating a constitutional crisis of titanic proportions.

Which would leave the ANC on the horns of a dilemma: institute impeachment proceedings or a motion of no confidence in the National Assembly against its own cadre, or let him finish his final term.

Whichever course of action the ANC chooses, the damage wrought to the country, the party, and its electoral prospects in 2019 will be grievous.