S.Africa’s electoral commission takes Zuma case to constitutional court

S.Africa’s electoral commission takes Zuma case to constitutional court
S.Africa’s electoral commission takes Zuma case to constitutional court

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Former South African President Jacob Zuma (centre) walks out of court after the private prosecution trial, where Zuma is suing South African President Cyril Ramaphosa over a leaked medical report linked to a 1990s arms corruption trial, in Johannesburg on April 11, 2024. — AFP pic

JOHANNESBURG, April 12 — South Africa’s electoral commission said today it had appealed to the country’s highest court to rule on whether ex-president Jacob Zuma can stand in a general election in May.

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The commission said in a statement that it had lodged an “urgent and direct” appeal to the Constitutional Court to provide “certainty”.

It is the latest twist in a legal wrangle over the eligibility of the 81- year-old who is fronting uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), a new opposition party that has become a potential upsetter in the May 29 election.

In a surprise verdict on Tuesday, the electoral court ruled that Zuma can stand, overturning a decision by the electoral commission to bar him over a contempt of court conviction.

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The body excluded Zuma from the race, saying the constitution barred anyone sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment.

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

His lawyers argued the sentence did not disqualify him as it followed civil rather than criminal proceedings and it had been shortened by a remission.

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

The electoral commission said Friday there was “substantial public interest in providing certainty on the proper interpretation” of the constitutional article relating to candidacies of people who have been convicted.

“Such clarity is important in the present matter because of a live issue but also for future elections,” it added.

South Africa’s general election is expected to be the most competitive since the advent of democracy in 1994 and Zuma’s presence in the campaign could prove a key factor.

Banking on his popularity, MK is expected to cut into the vote share of the embattled ruling African National Congress (ANC) — the ex-president’s former political home.

This could precipitate the ANC towards seeing its vote share drop below 50 per cent for the first time since 1994.

Short of a parliamentary majority, it would be forced to seek coalition partners to remain in power. — AFP

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