Press Release: The Executive Authority of the Republic of South Africa in relation to exchanges between the Presidency and the Minister of Tourism

In this press release, the Helen Suzman Foundation sets out the Constitutional Provisions governing the executive authority of the Republic of South Africa as applicable to the recent exchanges between the President and the Minister of Tourism.

The President and his Minister of Tourism have engaged in a series of recent public exchanges that might be styled South Africa’s own “while recollections might vary” debacle.  The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) wishes to make limited editorial comment in this regard but instead seeks to set out the following constitutional provisions governing the executive authority of the Republic of South Africa.

The President, by virtue of sections 83 and 85 of the Constitution, is the head of the executive and it is in him that the executive authority of the Republic is vested. The President exercises this power through Cabinet which consists of himself, at the head, and his Ministers. Section 91(2) endows the President with the power to appoint Ministers, to assign their powers and functions as well as to dismiss them. This power to appoint and dismiss, whilst not unfettered, is extremely broad. It is subject only to the limitations of the Constitution, rationality and legality.[1]

The President’s appointed Ministers are an extension of his executive authority, as “[a]fter all he appoints them and they are answerable to him”.[2] As an extension of the President and his Cabinet a Minister cannot, and should not, express or act in a manner that undermines or contradicts the position or policy of the executive authority. The fact that the exchange takes place via the official letterheads of both the President and the Minister of Tourism indicates that this matter is not simply a dispute between two private individuals or even internal ANC members, but rather as a dispute between public officials cloaked in their official capacity as members of the Executive of the Republic of South Africa, who are consequently bound to uphold their oaths and the Constitution.

Accordingly, it would seem that the Minister’s response and posture are incompatible with the allocation of executive authority as governed by the Constitution.

Media Enquires

Nicole Fritz

Chelsea Ramsden

[1] Democratic Alliance v President of the Republic of South Africa [2017] ZAGPPHC 148; 2017 (4) SA 253 (GP) at para 18.

[2] Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker of the National Assembly [2016] ZACC 11; 2016 (3) SA 580 (CC) at para 30.