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Semi-presidentialism and Subjugation of Parliament and Party in the Presidency of South Africa’s Jacob Zuma

Susan Booysen


A certain type of presidentialism in the heart of South Africa’s parliamentarist system characterised the period of President Jacob Zuma’s rule, 2009 ongoing at the time of writing, 2017. The analysis concerns the South African case of how presidentialism and parliamentarism fuse to deliver a parliamentarist-presidentialist hybrid within a constitutional state. This hybrid is termed semi-presidentialism in this analysis. It differs from the presidentialisation within parliamentary systems where the president remains accountable to the legislature yet is elected directly. South Africa’s hybrid is constituted, firstly, through the African National Congress (ANC) positioning itself as majoritarian power, obligated to uphold the will of the party’s electoral majority. The fusion of state and party amplifies party rule over parliament. Secondly, the ANC follows the dictum that the leader (president) of the ANC is an embodiment of the movement and hence entitled to loyalty. It pursues this line even if factional ANC rule prevails. Personalisation of presidential power and the reinforcement of presidentialism follow, undermining party rule in favour of the president’s individual elevation. The article assesses the establishment and the subsequent tentative decline of this powerful hybrid of parliamentarism-presidentialism.


Parliamentarism; presidentialism; semi-presidentialism; constitutionalism; African National Congress (ANC); President Jacob Zuma (Zuma)

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