South Africa’s ex-President Jacob Zuma barred from May elections

The elections are expected to be the most competitive vote since 1994 when the nation became a democracy.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma in Cape Town, South Africa, March 10, 2024 [Esa Alexander/Reuters]

South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has been barred from standing in elections in May, the electoral commission has said.

South Africa is set to hold general elections on May 29 in what is expected to be the most competitive vote since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Zuma has been campaigning for the recently formed uMkhonto WeSizwe (MK) (Spear of the Nation) party in an attempt to relaunch his career, after he was previously jailed for contempt of court in 2021.

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

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

Jacob Zuma in Durban, South Africa, March 27, 2024 [Rogan Ward/Reuters]

Close race

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 in 1994.

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

If the ANC falls below the 50 percent threshold, it will force the party, once led by Nelson Mandela, to form a coalition to stay in office.

Recent polls put the ANC on just more than 40 percent of the vote with the main opposition Democratic Alliance on about 27 percent and the MK party on 13 percent.

Zuma’s tenure ended in 2018 under a cloud of corruption allegations when incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa replaced him.

He was later sentenced to 15 months in jail in June 2021 after refusing to testify to a panel probing financial corruption and cronyism under his presidency. His jailing prompted protests, riots and looting that left more than 350 dead.

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

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 benefitted from a remission of non-violent offenders approved by Ramaphosa.

The electoral commission said in a statement 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 is also facing separate charges of corruption in an arms procurement scandal in the 1990s when he was vice president.

Despite his legal troubles, Zuma still wields political clout and has been campaigning for the MK party in an attempt to revive his career and weaken his former party, the ANC, which suspended him in January.

The decision to bar Zuma can be appealed before April 2.

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

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[Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies