Former South African president Zuma debarred from general elections

Former South African president Jacob Zuma has been disqualified from running in the upcoming elections due to his criminal record. Zuma, sentenced to 15 months in jail in 2021, has faced backlash for corruption during his time in office. The electoral commission cited the Constitution in its decision, leading to uncertainty and potential violence ahead of the elections.

PTI | Johannesburg | Updated: 30-03-2024 01:14 IST | Created: 30-03-2024 01:14 IST
Former South African president Zuma debarred from general elections
  • Country:
  • South Africa

Former South African president Jacob Zuma has been disqualified as a candidate in South Africa's general elections scheduled for May 29 due to his criminal record, the Electoral Commission (IEC) said on Friday.

Zuma, who was recalled by his own African National Congress (ANC) in February 2018 for refusing to step down, was sentenced to 15 months in jail in 2021 by the highest judicial body in South Africa, the Constitutional Court after he earlier walked out of hearings at the Commission of Enquiry into State Capture.

The ANC recalled Zuma after huge public outcries about his alleged closeness to the now self-exiled Gupta family who looted billions from state-owned enterprises such as Eskom.

These entities are now financially crippled, leading to embattled electricity supplier Eskom being unable to meet the power needs of the country and the rail infrastructure inoperable.

The Guptas are believed to be in Dubai and South Africa is seeking their extradition to face trial here.

Zuma spent only two months of his sentence in prison before coming out on parole on medical grounds.

The process was, however, later found to have been done irregularly. Zuma returned to prison only to be released just over an hour later when his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, granted him a special remission.

Widespread violence, looting and killings took place in two South African provinces -- his home province of KwaZulu-Natal and the economic hub of Gauteng -- following Zuma's imprisonment.

There are concerns that a similar situation might arise after his candidacy was declined as the leader of a new party that Zuma helped establish threatened violence.

The Youth President of the Umkhonto We Sizwe Party (MK), Bonginkosi Khanyile, earlier said "all hell will break loose" if Zuma and the newly formed party were not allowed on the ballot paper in May.

MK Party is named after the erstwhile military wing of the ANC in exile during the apartheid era, but the ANC has also challenged the use of the name and claimed propriety rights to it.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed firm action against anyone who attempts to disrupt the election.

MK Party had announced publicly that Zuma was their number one candidate for the elections, meaning that he could return to the position of president despite his criminal record.

The IEC, however, said Zuma was not eligible for the elections because of his criminal record.

IEC chairperson Mosotho Moepya cited Section 47 of the Constitution -- according to which no person convicted for more than 12 months without the option of a fine -- is allowed to hold public office. ''We were unanimous. These are not matters we deal with that are personal. It is a provision of the law against which we must measure an objection and it's straightforward. It is whether the person qualifies or does not qualify,'' Moepya said.

He said Zuma still had recourse to the Electoral Court, the final arbiter in election matters.

"They have until April 2 - and, once the court has received those, it will consider the matters and make its decision known,'' Moepya said. The Electoral Court is expected to then decide within a week.

''The effect of the objections brought against the former president has been dealt with. What we have done is to exercise the provisions of the law without fear, favour and without prejudice. Anyone who has been removed from the list will have reasons why we have done so.

''We would have relied on the provisions of the Act or the Constitution, and we accept that we have a fundamental responsibility in exercising that role very carefully,'' Moepya said. Zuma has been actively campaigning against the ANC that he had joined as a child and of which he was president for almost a decade.

Zuma is also facing a corruption trial that has been going on for more than a decade as he engaged in repeated delaying tactics in various courts.

Last week, he lost a bid to oust the prosecutor in the trial for alleged bias.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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