Constitutional Court Bars Ex-President Zuma From Contesting In May Election

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The Constitutional Court in South Africa has barred former President Jacob Zuma from running for parliament in next week’s general election.

The Constitutional Court, which is the highest in the country ruled that his 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court disqualified him.

Mr Zuma was convicted in 2021 for refusing to testify at an inquiry investigating corruption during his presidency which ended in 2018.

He has been campaigning under the banner of the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party after falling out with the governing African National Congress (ANC).

MK secretary general Sihle Ngubane said the party was disappointed with the ruling, but it would not affect the party’s campaign for the 29 May election.

“He is still the leader of the party. It [the ruling] doesn’t affect our campaign at all,” he said.

South Africans vote for political parties, with the candidates at the top of their lists getting parliamentary seats depending on the number of votes the party gets.

The electoral commission said Mr Zuma’s name would now be removed from MK’s list of parliamentary candidates, while confirming that his image would remain on ballot papers, alongside his party’s logo.

MK members sang and danced outside the court portraying Mr Zuma as a victim, while those inside – some dressed in traditional Zulu regalia – sat silently as Justice Leona Theron read out the unanimous judgement.

Mr Zuma has not yet commented on the ruling.

His supporters rioted after he was sent to jail in 2021, and some of its leaders had threatened violence if the court disqualified him from standing for parliament.

But MK officials have since changed their rhetoric, saying the party’s focus was on getting a two-thirds majority so that South Africa’s constitution could be changed, and Mr Zuma could be returned to power.

In court, his lawyers had argued that because he was released after three months in prison by his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, the rest of his sentence was cancelled.

But the court disagreed, saying the length of time he actually spent in prison was irrelevant.

South Africa’s constitution barred anyone sentenced to 12 months in prison, without the option of a fine, from serving in parliament in order to protect the integrity of the “democratic regime” established after the end of the racist system of apartheid in 1994, Justice Theron said.