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South Africa’s Court Bars Zuma From Running In Election

IN a landmark decision on Monday, South Africa’s constitutional court ruled that former president Jacob Zuma is barred from running for parliament in this month’s election. The judgment, which could influence the election outcome and potentially trigger unrest among Zuma’s supporters, stems from his 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court in 2021.

The court’s ruling stated, ‘It is declared that Mr. Zuma was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment, … and is accordingly not eligible to be a member of, and not qualified to stand for election to, the National Assembly.’ According to the South African constitution, individuals sentenced to 12 months or longer in prison are prohibited from holding a parliamentary seat.

Zuma, who resigned as president in 2018, has distanced himself from the governing African National Congress (ANC) and is now campaigning for a new party called uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), named after the ANC’s former armed wing. MK poses a significant threat to the ANC, particularly in Zuma’s stronghold of KwaZulu-Natal, where he enjoys substantial support.


In 2021, Zuma’s imprisonment led to riots in KwaZulu-Natal that resulted in over 300 deaths and widespread looting. When asked about the potential for violence following the court’s decision, President Cyril Ramaphosa told local radio station 702, ‘I’m not concerned about this instigating violence. We have rule of law in South Africa that governs us. Once a constitutional court has decided, that is it, and should there be any threat of violence our security forces are ready.’

South Africa’s electoral commission initially disqualified Zuma in March, but a lower court later overturned this decision, citing that the relevant constitutional section applied only to those who had an opportunity to appeal their sentences, which was not the case for Zuma. The electoral commission then escalated the matter to the constitutional court.

Despite Zuma’s disqualification from standing as a parliamentary candidate, his face will still appear on ballots this month as he is the registered leader of the MK party. An Ipsos opinion poll published in April indicated that MK has approximately 8 percent support, compared to just over 40 percent for the ANC.

While the ANC is poised to secure the most votes, if it garners less than 50 percent support, it would need to form a coalition government for the first time since it came to power under Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid.

At a campaign rally for the MK party on Saturday in Soweto, Zuma addressed thousands of supporters, promising free education for disadvantaged children and job creation.

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