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Electoral Commission Disqualifies Jacob Zuma from May Elections in South Africa

Published March 29, 2024
1 months ago

In a move that may reshape the political landscape ahead of South Africa’s pivotal general elections, the Electoral Commission has declared former President Jacob Zuma ineligible to run in the May 29 polls. With an election that promises to be the most fiercely contested since the birth of South African democracy in 1994, Zuma’s disqualification could signify a crucial turning point for the governing African National Congress (ANC) and the political factions splintering from it.

The commission's President, Mosotho Moepya, confirmed the barring of Zuma following a successful objection to his candidacy without elaborating on the specifics of the decision. In anticipation of a heated electoral contest, the ANC faces the peril of dropping below 50 percent of the vote—a historic low since it assumed power at the end of apartheid. Notably, the former liberation movement faces mounting discontent over economic stagnation, coupled with persistent allegations of graft and misgovernance.

The MK party, for which Zuma has recently become a figurehead, had been polling at 13 percent. Zuma’s political maneuvers come on the heels of his contentious legacy and subsequent legal challenges, including his 2021 imprisonment for contempt after defying a requirement to testify in a state capture inquiry. While his initial 15-month sentence was ameliorated through medical parole—a decision later deemed unlawful—he briefly returned to custody only to receive a general remission granted to non-violent offenders.

Zuma’s exclusion from the electoral race is governed by a clause in the South African constitution that precludes individuals sentenced to over 12 months of imprisonment without the option of a fine from standing in elections. The former leader also faces ongoing litigation over an arms deal scandal dating back to his tenure as vice president.

Despite these controversies and his suspension from the ANC this past January, Zuma enjoys persistent support in certain quarters. The MK spokesperson, Nhlamulo Ndlhela, has indicated the party’s intention to contest the electoral commission's decision ahead of the April 2 appeal deadline.

As the ANC treads in uncertain electoral waters, possibly leading to a coalition scenario post-elections, and with the Democratic Alliance as the main opposition, South Africa is bracing for an election that could dramatically alter its political climate, shaping the future of governance in this young democracy.

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