Zuma Barred from Running for Parliament in Upcoming Elections

Zuma Prevented from Running for Parliament in Upcoming Elections

South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma has been disqualified from running for parliament in this month’s election. This decision, handed down by the country’s top court on Monday, could influence the election’s outcome and potentially incite unrest among Zuma’s supporters.

Constitutional Court Ruling

The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma’s 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court in 2021 makes him ineligible to stand in the May 29 election. According to the South African constitution, anyone sentenced to 12 months or more in prison is prohibited from holding a parliamentary seat.

“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,” the court’s ruling stated.

Zuma’s Political Ambitions

After being forced to resign as president in 2018, Zuma has distanced himself from the governing African National Congress (ANC). He has since been campaigning for a new party named uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), after the ANC’s former armed wing.

Opinion polls indicate that the ANC’s long-standing majority is at risk after 30 years in power. MK poses a significant threat to the ANC, particularly in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where he remains popular.

Potential for Unrest

Zuma’s imprisonment in 2021 led to riots in KwaZulu-Natal, resulting in over 300 deaths and widespread looting. Concerns have been raised about the potential for similar unrest following the recent court ruling.

When asked about the possibility of violence during an interview with local radio station 702, President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed confidence in the country’s stability.

“I’m not concerned about this instigating violence,” Ramaphosa said. “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.”

Electoral Commission and Legal Challenges

In March, South Africa’s electoral commission initially disqualified Zuma, but a court later overturned this decision, stating the relevant constitutional section applied only to those who had an opportunity to appeal their sentences—a condition that did not apply to Zuma. The electoral commission then took the case to the Constitutional Court.

Despite Zuma’s disqualification, the electoral commission has indicated that his face will still appear on ballots this month as he is the registered leader of the MK party.

Political Landscape and Future Implications

An Ipsos opinion poll published in April showed support for MK at roughly 8%, compared to just over 40% for the ANC. Although the ANC is projected to receive the most votes, if it secures less than 50% support, it will need to form a coalition to govern—marking the first such alliance since the party’s rise to power under Nelson Mandela at the end of apartheid.

Zuma’s Campaign Promises

At a recent campaign rally for the MK party held in Soweto, Zuma addressed thousands of supporters. He promised that his party would offer free education for disadvantaged children and create jobs.

The disqualification of Jacob Zuma from the upcoming parliamentary election marks a significant moment in South African politics. With the ANC’s dominance under threat and the potential for unrest among Zuma’s supporters, the political landscape is set for a turbulent election period.

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