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South Africa’s Top Court Disqualifies Jacob Zuma from Running for Parliament

South Africa's Top Court Disqualifies Jacob Zuma from Running for Parliament

South Africa’s highest court has ruled that former president Jacob Zuma cannot run for parliament in the upcoming national elections on May 29, 2024. This decision comes due to a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court that Zuma received in 2021 after failing to appear before a corruption inquiry.

The constitutional court stated, “Mr. Zuma was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment and is accordingly not eligible to be a member of and not qualified to stand for election to the National Assembly until five years have elapsed since the completion of his sentence.”

Zuma, who served as South Africa’s president from 2009 to 2018, was forced to resign amid allegations of corruption, which he denies. He has since been leading a new party, uMkhonto WeSizwe (MK), named after the ANC’s armed wing during apartheid.

Despite his disqualification, the MK party remains a significant force, particularly in Zuma’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal. Recent opinion polls suggest MK holds about 8% of the vote, posing a threat to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which is predicted to receive just over 40% of the vote. This marks a potential loss of its majority for the first time since apartheid ended.

In 2021, Zuma’s imprisonment triggered riots in KwaZulu-Natal, resulting in over 300 deaths and widespread looting. President Cyril Ramaphosa, when asked about potential violence following the court’s recent ruling, expressed confidence in the rule of law and the readiness of security forces to handle any unrest.

The electoral commission initially disqualified Zuma in March, but a lower court overturned this decision, arguing that Zuma had not had the chance to appeal his sentence, as required by the constitution. The constitutional court’s latest ruling, however, has confirmed Zuma’s ineligibility.

Despite the ruling, Zuma’s face will remain on the ballot as the registered leader of the MK party. At a recent campaign rally, Zuma promised free education for disadvantaged children and job creation if his party comes to power.

As South Africa prepares for its most competitive election since the end of apartheid, the political landscape remains dynamic, with the ANC facing potential coalition scenarios to maintain governance.

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