South Africa’s Constitutional Court Bars Jacob Zuma from Running in Upcoming Elections

Jacob Zuma
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PRETORIA — On Monday, the Constitutional Court overturned a decision by the Electoral Court, ruling that former president Jacob Zuma is ineligible to run in the upcoming elections.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) had filed an urgent application challenging Zuma’s inclusion on the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party’s Parliamentary list. The challenge followed the IEC’s release of candidate lists for political parties and a subsequent objection to Zuma’s candidacy.

The objection stemmed from Zuma’s 15-month prison sentence in 2021 for defying the Constitutional Court. The IEC argued that, under Section 47(1)(e) of the Constitution, Zuma’s conviction automatically disqualified him from holding public office.

Section 47(1)(e) states: “Anyone who, after this section took effect, is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine, either in the Republic, or outside the Republic if the conduct constituting the offence would have been an offence in the Republic, but no one may be regarded as having been sentenced until an appeal against the conviction or sentence has been determined, or until the time for an appeal has expired.”

Zuma’s legal team contended that his early release on medical parole meant he did not serve the full 15 months, making him eligible for the National Assembly. Zuma was released on medical parole on September 5, 2021, after serving three months of his sentence. He was granted a special remission of sentence by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, a measure also applied to over 9,000 other prisoners to alleviate prison overcrowding.

Zuma’s lawyers argued that this remission effectively reduced his sentence to three months, which should not disqualify him from parliamentary service.

Despite these arguments, the Constitutional Court ruled against Zuma’s eligibility. This decision impacts Zuma’s role as the leader and face of the MKP, a position he assumed after replacing the party’s founder, Jabulani Khumalo. – IOL