Jacob Zuma not eligible to run for South African parliament, court rules

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South Africa’s highest court has ruled that former president Jacob Zuma cannot run for parliament in national elections on 29 May, the latest twist in the most competitive polls since the country’s first post-apartheid vote 30 years ago.

The constitutional court found that Zuma was ineligible to stand for election due to a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court in 2021, after he failed to appear before a corruption inquiry.

Zuma was president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, when he was forced to resign by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party amid graft allegations, which he denies.

The 82-year-old has waged a bitter feud with current president Cyril Ramaphosa ever since, and Zuma is now the figurehead of the new uMkhonto WeSizwe (MK) party, named after the ANC’s armed wing during apartheid.

“This unsurprising decision, while disappointing, has not disheartened us,” the MK party said in a statement. “The MK party leadership, led by President Zuma, will address the nation in the next few days after consulting the legal team.”

The MK party was launched in December and polled above 8% in a survey published in April by Ipsos, which said it was carving off votes from the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, particularly in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal.

The ANC scored just over 40% in the Ipsos poll, and most surveys predict it will lose its majority for the first time since apartheid ended, although polls usually underestimate its support.

The MK party is targeting a two-thirds majority, so it can implement radical policies including nationalising the central bank and large banks and mines, Zuma told thousands of supporters at a rally on Saturday at Orlando Stadium in the township of Soweto, a mile from a house where former president Nelson Mandela lived.

He served just two months of his prison sentence in 2021, before being released on medical parole. His sentence was then among more than 9,000 cut short by Ramaphosa last year, a decision framed as a measure to tackle prison overcrowding.

Zuma’s imprisonment in 2021 triggered riots in which more than 300 people died.

“I’m not concerned about this instigating violence,” Ramaphosa told a local radio station, when asked about the constitutional court’s ruling.

South Africa’s election commission disqualified Zuma in March. That was initially overturned by the country’s election court, which said Zuma had not had a chance to appeal, as required by the constitution.

The country’s top court said in its ruling, “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 until five years have elapsed since the completion of his sentence.”

The election commission welcomed the decision, saying it could now continue preparing for the 20 May vote, “single-mindedly, without apprehension”.

It added that Zuma’s face would remain on the ballot, visually representing the MK.

Source: theguardian.com

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