S.Africa’s ex-president Zuma barred from May election

S.Africa’s ex-president Zuma barred from May election
S.Africa’s ex-president Zuma barred from May election

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks during the Shekainah Healing Ministries Prophetic Pillowcase service in Phillipi, near Cape Town, on March 10, 2024 ahead of the South African Presidential elections scheduled for May 29, 2024. — AFP pic

JOHANNESBURG, March 29 — South Africa’s electoral officials said Thursday that they had excluded former president Jacob Zuma from May elections, further stoking tensions in the run-up to the polls.

The country is to hold general elections on May 29 in what is expected to be the most competitive vote since the advent of democracy in 1994.

The governing African National Congress (ANC) is on the brink of dropping below 50 percent of the vote for the first time since it came to power at the end of apartheid.

The party is bleeding support amid a weak economy and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

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Zuma, 81, was forced out of office in 2018 under a cloud of corruption allegations but still wields political clout.

He has been campaigning for the opposition uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party in an attempt to relaunch his career, calling members of his former party, the ANC, “traitors”.

“In the case of former president Zuma, yes, we did receive an objection, which has been upheld,” electoral commission president Mosotho Moepya told reporters, without giving details.

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“The party that has nominated him has been informed” as have those objecting to the move, he added.

The decision can be appealed before April 2.

MK spokesman Nhlamulo Ndlhela told AFP the party was “looking at the merit of that objection but we will of course appeal it”.

‘Intellectual property theft’

The electoral commission decision is not the MK’s only problem.

The ANC on Wednesday filed a new court application to stop the MK from using its name, alleging intellectual property theft.

According to the governing party, the uMkhonto we Sizwe name and logo are similar to those of the now disbanded apartheid-era military wing of the ANC, which could deceive or confuse voters.

A court decision is expected to be announced in the coming days.

On Tuesday a court rejected an initial complaint by the ANC, which said the MK was registered unlawfully, allowing the small radical party to stand in the election.

The general election, after which the victor will appoint a president, is set to be tense.

If the ANC falls below 50 per cent of the vote it would force the party once led by Nelson Mandela to form a coalition to stay in office.

Latest opinion polls put the ANC on just over 40 per cent of the vote, with the main opposition Democratic Alliance on around 27 per cent and the MK at 13 per cent.

The electoral commission said that under the constitution “any person who was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine” cannot stand in an election.

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

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

But his jailing sparked protests, riots and looting that left more than 350 dead in South Africa’s worst violence since the advent of democracy.

An appeals court later ruled Zuma’s release was illegally granted and ordered him back to jail.

But on returning to a correctional centre he immediately benefited from a remission of non-violent offenders approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa, his arch-rival and successor.

Besides his 2021 contempt conviction he is facing separate charges of corruption in an arms procurement scandal in the 1990s, when he was vice president.

Zuma cannot in theory seek re-election as he has already served two terms as president.

Final electoral lists are due to be published within around a fortnight.

The electoral commission has received 82 appeals relating to candidates designated by 21 political parties.

Zuma’s declaration in December that he would campaign for the MK was a blow for the ANC, as he remains popular with Zulus.

The announcement of his exclusion came as the head of South Africa’s biggest opposition party, John Steenhuisen of the Democratic Alliance, refused to rule out a coalition deal with the ANC after the elections. — AFP

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