Jacob Zuma wins court battle, cleared to run in May 2024 election

Former South African President Jacob Zuma triumphed in court, overturning his disqualification from the parliamentary election on uMkhonto weSizwe Party’s ticket. This ruling deals another blow to the ruling African National Congress’ attempts to suppress MKP support, which is surging in popularity. Zuma, a polarizing figure, evades objections based on his prison sentence, sparking debate over eligibility. As South Africa’s political landscape shifts, the ANC faces a formidable challenge to its decades-long parliamentary dominance.

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By S’thembile Cele

Former South African President Jacob Zuma won a court bid to overturn his disqualification from running for parliament in next month’s election on the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe Party’s ticket.

The decision is another setback to the ruling African National Congress’ efforts to stifle support for the MKP, which opinion polls show is gaining popularity ahead of the May 29 vote. Last month, the ANC lost a court bid to have the party deregistered.

An objection to Zuma running as a candidate in the election “is hereby dismissed,” the Electoral Court said in an order handed down on Tuesday. A copy of its full ruling wasn’t immediately available. 

South Africa’s constitution bars anyone sentenced to more than 12 months in jail from being a member of parliament. Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2021 after being found guilty of contempt of court. 

The MKP’s lawyers argued that the Independent Electoral Commission failed to consider that Zuma only served a few weeks of his sentence, and was released on medical parole before benefiting from a remission of sentence and should therefore be allowed to run.

Zuma, 81, has been the public face of the MKP since its launch in December. If the opinion polls that show the party has gained significant support in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal prove accurate, it could cost the ANC the parliamentary majority it has held since coming to power three decades ago.

Zuma led South Africa for nine years marred by scandal, including allegations of large-scale corruption and the looting of billions of dollars of state funds. He has denied wrongdoing and hasn’t been indicted on the accusations. He was forced to resign as president in February 2018 after the ANC elected Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him as party leader in December 2017. 

The IEC is set to announce the final list of candidates who are eligible to contest for seats in parliament later this week.

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