Cape Town – After Jacob Zuma’s resignation as president on Wednesday night, Cyril Ramaphosa automatically became acting president of the republic.
According to Section 90 of the Constitution, when there is a vacancy in the office of president, which there is after Zuma's resignation, the first person in line to act as president is the deputy president.
"An acting president has the responsibilities, powers and functions of the president," reads the Constitution.
"Before assuming the responsibilities, powers and functions of the president, the acting president must swear or affirm faithfulness to the republic and obedience to the Constitution."
This basically means he cannot perform presidential duties, such as signing legislation into law, making appointments or deploying the military (such as when IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi acted as president) before taking the oath, or being sworn in.
When there is an acting president, a new president must be elected by the National Assembly.
The ANC on Wednesday indicated that they would like the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to be delivered by a president and not an acting president, so it is expected that the National Assembly will have an election before Friday evening.
For this to happen, the chief justice must determine a date, within 30 days of the vacancy occurring, for the National Assembly to elect a new president from its members. If there is more than one candidate, this will be done by secret ballot.
If the National Assembly fails to elect a new president within 30 days, the Speaker must dissolve Parliament and new national elections must be held.
On Wednesday, Parliament scheduled the election of the president for Friday morning, which would have been after the now irrelevant motion of no confidence in Zuma that had been set down for Thursday had he not resigned.
There is a possibility that the election of the president might happen even sooner, depending on the availability of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and a decision by Parliament’s programming committee, which meets on Thursday morning.
The person elected president, most likely Ramaphosa, will then cease to be a member of Parliament.