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Former South African president wins legal bid to run in elections

Jacob Zuma is seeking a seat in the National Assembly after previously leading the country for more than eight years

Former South African president Jacob Zuma can run for office as a lawmaker in the upcoming general election, the country’s Electoral Court has ruled, reversing an earlier verdict that had blocked him from being a candidate.

The court ruling on Tuesday allows Zuma, 81, to remain on the ballot as a candidate for uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new opposition coalition he joined last year after defecting from the ruling African National Congress (ANC).

On May 29, South Africans will vote for a new parliament, which will then elect a president one month later.

Last month, the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) upheld an objection against Zuma’s candidacy because of a previous conviction, barring him from the race.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2021 after he was found to have refused to attend a court-ordered tribunal that investigated systematic corruption in state institutions during his presidency between 2009 and 2018. He served just two months and was released under a ‘special remission’ pardon scheme introduced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, which granted release to thousands of non-violent inmates and aimed to ease overcrowding concerns in prisons.

Under South African laws, people who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than a year in prison without the option of a fine are not eligible to stand for election as lawmakers.

The former president’s lawyers filed an appeal against the IEC’s decision last week, arguing that the provision did not apply to their client. They told the court that Zuma’s conviction did not disqualify him because it was based on civil rather than criminal proceedings, and had been shortened by a remission.

“The decision of the Electoral Commission of March 28, 2024… is set aside and submitted with the following: the objection is hereby dismissed,” the Electoral Court said on Tuesday.

Zuma’s MK Party hailed the court’s decision as 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.”

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The coalition was formed early last year and gained popularity in December, when Zuma announced his membership after denouncing the ANC – the party that helped him win two presidential elections.

Zuma declared in December that campaigning for President Ramaphosa would be a betrayal, claiming that the ANC, which led the decades-long struggle against Apartheid, would lose the national election for the first time since 1994. He said he would rather vote for a small, radical left-wing party after accusing the ANC of “the death of democratically elected structures.”

The Associated Press quoted Nhlamulo Ndhlela, spokesman for the MK coalition, as saying on Tuesday that Zuma would appear on the ballot as the party’s presidential candidate – suggesting that he is likely to be elected as a lawmaker.

April 10, 2024 at 03:13PM

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