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Constitutional court bars ex-president Zuma from running in South Africa elections

Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma

He’s often been dubbed “the Teflon president” for his ability to endure scandal after scandal, but TODAY Monday something finally stuck.

The Constitutional court ruled that due to a 2021 prison sentence, former President Jacob Zuma will not be allowed to run for parliament in pivotal South African elections on May 29. The country’s Electoral Commission had always maintained Zuma was disqualified from running, because he had been sentenced to 15 months in jail for contempt of court in a corruption case.

He served only two months before being released on medical parole. Zuma’s Umkhonto WeSizwe, or MK Party, spokesperson was defiant when addressing media outside the court after the ruling Monday.

“We are disappointed about the judgement, but I’d like to emphasize this: President Zuma will be on the ballot paper when we’re going to vote ... He’s still the leader of the party, he’s in charge of MK Party,” said Sihle Ngubane.

The Electoral Commission said in a statement that while Zuma’s picture could still appear with other party members on the ballot, his name would be removed from the list of candidates nominated by the MK Party. Rather than directly electing a president, South Africans vote for members of parliament. Whichever party wins a majority then puts their leader forward as president.

Another MK spokesperson told local media that despite the court decision, if the party came to power, whoever became president would essentially be a puppet because Zuma would still be “the brains behind any president that will be deployed.”

Political analyst Sandile Swana told VOA in some ways the court decision could even play in Zuma’s favor.

“The MK Party supporters are going to use this sentence again to look for sympathies that even the courts are against Zuma … and playing the victim card to the fullest,” he said.

Zuma, 82, was forced to resign near the end of his second term in 2018 amid numerous corruption scandals. Bitter at his former party, the African National Congress (ANC), Zuma threw his weight behind the newly-formed MK in December 2023.

The ANC was shocked by the move, and to add insult to injury the MK Party takes its name from the ANC’s disbanded armed wing -established by South African icon Nelson Mandela during the fight against apartheid.

Despite all the allegations against him – which include basically giving over state-owned enterprises and even some ministries to his businessmen friends - Zuma still has massive support in his home province of Kwa Zulu-Natal.

While MK has not been polling very high country-wide, elections next week are being seen as a test for the ANC, which surveys suggest will win under 50 per cent for the first time in 30 years and may have to enter into a coalition.


0 #1 WADADA rogers 2024-05-20 22:19
Good, makes it easier for Malema
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0 #2 Marc Mae 2024-05-21 17:19
I will never understand our dodgy so called politicians who want to live till eternity.

They never get it in their thick heads when they do not count any more and they still insist on being relevant.
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