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South Africa's Top Court Bars Zuma from Election, Impacting ANC's Prospects

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Griffith Sarah

May 21, 2024

Constitutional Court Ruling Disqualifies Former President Jacob Zuma from Parliamentary Run, Heightening Election Tensions

Zuma, who was forced to quit as president in 2018, has fallen out with the governing African National Congress (ANC) and has been campaigning for a new party called uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) named after the ANC's former armed wing.
South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma in the middle with his supporters

South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma has been barred from running for parliament in this month's election, following a ruling by the constitutional court.


The court declared that Zuma's 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court in 2021 disqualified him from standing in the May 29 election, as the constitution prohibits anyone with a prison sentence of 12 months or longer from holding a parliamentary seat. Zuma, who resigned as president in 2018, has been campaigning for a new party, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which he founded after falling out with the African National Congress (ANC).


The MK party, led by secretary-general Sihle Ngubane, stated that the ruling does not affect its campaign and that they would take direction from Zuma on their next steps.

Opinion polls indicate that the ANC's majority is at risk after 30 years in power, with MK posing a significant threat, particularly in Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal where he remains popular. In 2021, Zuma's imprisonment led to riots in KwaZulu-Natal, resulting in over 300 deaths and widespread looting.


President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed confidence in the rule of law and stated that security forces are prepared to handle any potential violence following the court's decision. Despite Zuma's disqualification, his photograph will remain on the ballot paper as the registered leader of MK, although his name will be removed from the list of parliamentary candidates.


Also read:Jacob Zuma Rallies Support in Soweto for Upcoming General Election


An Ipsos poll from April showed MK with around 8% support compared to the ANC's 40%. While the ANC is expected to receive the most votes, it may need to form a coalition if it fails to secure over 50% of the vote. Zuma, speaking at an MK rally in Soweto, promised free education for disadvantaged children and job creation, appealing to his base ahead of the election.

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