Zuma Out Of South African Elections

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What you need to know:
  • In ruling Zuma ineligible to stand in this election, the Constitutional Court also pointed out that the former president still has a right of appeal.
  • Next week, almost 28 million registered voters will cast ballots for thousands of candidates for a record number of new parties in a vote which could see the African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid 30 years ago, lose its absolute majority.
  • Former South African president Jacob Zuma has been ruled out as a candidate in crucial elections set for next week.

    The apex Constitutional Court ruled today (Monday) against Zumas eligibility to stand for South Africas 400-seat Parliament when nearly 28 million voters cast their ballots next Wednesday.

    The issue before the court was a Constitutional restriction preventing anyone with a 12-month or longer jail term from being eligible to stand in elections.

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    Next week, almost 28 million registered voters will cast ballots for thousands of candidates for a record number of new parties in a vote which could see the African National Congress (ANC), which has ruled South Africa since the end of apartheid 30 years ago, lose its absolute majority.

    Zuma, who was sentenced in 2021 to 15 months incarceration by the same Constitutional Court for contempt of its rulings, stirred much controversy in January by saying he was endorsing what amounts to a largely Zulu-clan breakaway from the ANC, uMkhonto weSizwe or MK, meaning in English, Spear of the Nation.

    Since then, Zuma has become the face of MK, even as the new party has battled to keep him at the top of its election lists, and to retain that name, which the ANC has claimed as its own, having used it since the 1950s as the name of the partys militant armed wing.

    The court case over who owns the MK name is still underway, but whatever is ruled in that regard, MK now appears on ballot papers with Zumas face as its representative top figure.

    In ruling Zuma ineligible to stand in this election, the Constitutional Court also pointed out that the former president still has a right of appeal but only to the same court and the same Justices, meaning there is almost literally no way for him to get back onto the MK party list after todays ruling on his ineligibility.

    General initial response from analysts was that while the move would not help MK much except to further its claims of playing on a legally unequal field, tilted in favour of the ANC but that it would also likely do little at this late stage to markedly affect MKs overall showing.

    Many backing the party have told pollsters they are doing so due to their personal support of Zuma, and will be voting for the party regardless.

    Various pre-election polls have put MKs likely showing nationally at between about 8.5 percent to around 11 percent.

    Regionally, the new party of Zuma may take as much as a quarter of the votes in Zulu-tribal dominated KwaZulu-Natal, plus make good showings in other key provinces, especially Gauteng (greater Johannesburg and Pretoria) and could emerge as kingmakers through making crucial alliances.

    MK could in theory form a post-election alliance with a much-weakened ANC, but this is considered highly unlikely, given Zumas animosity to the ANC under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

    It might, in regions where the ANC has performed poorly, also form what amounts to a joint opposition to the party of Mandela, but such constructions as are possible, such as with Julius Malemas Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), are also viewed by political strategists as almost certain to be fraught and fragile, and likely to disintegrate quickly.

    The Concourt ruling against Zumas participation as a candidate in the election largely viewed as the most important vote since the ANC came to power under Mandela in 1994 came just a day after MK formally launched its election manifesto.

    ConCourt Judge Leona Theron read out the ruling to a fully packed courtroom.

    It is declared that Mr Zuma was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment for purposes of section 47 (1) e of the Constitution 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, she said.

    The court also ruled that the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) was empowered to make the decision to exclude Zuma, ahead of the elections, as the IEC had argued was its right and duty.

    The IEC brought the case before the ConCourt on appeal from the Electoral Court which found that Zu