World News

South Africa’s Ex-President Zuma Wins Court Bid To Run In May Election

 

 

A South African court on Tuesday ruled that former president Jacob Zuma can stand in looming general elections, overturning a decision by electoral authorities to bar him over a contempt conviction.

In a surprise verdict, the electoral court ruled in favour of the 81-year-old who is fronting uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new opposition party that has become a potential upsetter in the May 29 election.

“The decision of the Electoral Commission… is set aside,” the court wrote in a ruling seen by AFP.

It did not provide an explanation of how the verdict was reached.

South Africa’s general elections are expected to be the most competitive since the advent of democracy in 1994 and Zuma’s presence in the campaign could prove a key factor.

Banking on his popularity, MK is expected to cut into the vote share of the embattled ruling African National Congress (ANC) — the ex-president’s former political home.

This could precipitate the ANC towards seeing its vote share drop below 50 percent for the first time since 1994.

Short of a parliamentary majority, it would be forced to seek coalition partners to remain in power.

MK hailed the ruling as a “triumph” over what it said were ANC-led efforts to marginalise it.

“This victory extends beyond President Zuma and the MK Party as it symbolises a victory for every South African who believes in fairness, democracy, and the inviolable right to elect leaders of their choice, free from undue interference,” it said.

 

– ‘On the ballot’ –

“President Zuma will be on the ballot paper,” the ex-leader’s daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, said on social media, posting a photo of her smiling father.

The electoral commission said it had taken note of the decision but asked the reasons for it be made public.

“Naturally the commission is taking legal advice…and will chart a way forward based on such advice,” it said.

The body had excluded Zuma from the race, saying the constitution barred anyone convicted sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail in June 2021 after refusing to testify to a panel probing financial corruption and cronyism during his presidency.

His lawyers argued the sentence did not disqualify him as it followed civil rather than criminal proceedings and it had been shortened by a remission.

Zuma was freed on medical parole just two months into his jail term.

“If the masses want me to be president, what’s going to stop them?” an upbeat Zuma told supporters, after Monday’s hearing. “Allow me to go and finish what I started.”

The ANC is struggling in the polls amid a weak economy and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

 

– Political tensions –

 

Some opinion polls put MK at above 10 percent nationwide, a share that would make it the third or fourth political force behind the ANC and the liberal Democratic Alliance.

The party is projected to make a particularly strong showing in the battleground region of KwaZulu-Natal — Zuma’s home province.

It largely relies on the considerable political clout wielded by Zuma, who despite scandals and graft allegations is still popular, particularly among the country’s more than 10 million Zulus.

Tensions between the ANC and MK have run high in recent months.

The ANC has unsuccessfully tried to have the new party disqualified and has taken it to court to stop it from using the MK name, alleging intellectual property theft.

Last week a MK leader appeared in court accused of inciting violence for saying that massive riots would erupt if the MK was not allowed to run.

More than 350 people were killed in 2021 in protests, riots and looting sparked by the jailing of Zuma, who has long been bitter about the way he was forced out of office under a cloud of corruption allegations.

South Africans will be voting for a new parliament, which in turn will elect the president.

The electoral commission is expected to publish the final candidate list on Wednesday.

 

Nebianet Usaini

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