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PoliticsSouth Africa

South Africa: Court rules Jacob Zuma can run in election

April 9, 2024

The ban on the former president's candidacy for the newly formed MK party has been lifted despite a criminal conviction. The ruling ANC could lose its absolute majority for the first time since 1994 in May elections.

 Former South African President Jacob Zuma at an earlier court appearance
The 81-year-old Zuma still wields political cloutImage: Kim Ludbrook/Pool/AP/picture alliance

A South African court on Tuesday overruled electoral authorities' decision to bar former President Jacob Zuma from running in the country's general elections next month.

South Africans will on May 29 vote for a new parliament, which will in turn elect the president.

What do we know about the decision?

"The decision of the Electoral Commission... is set aside," the Electoral Court wrote in its ruling seen by AFP news agency. 

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) decided last month to bar Zuma from running for a seat in Parliament on behalf of the uMkhonto weSizwe Party (MK).

The IEC disqualified Zuma over his 2021 conviction and jailing for contempt of court. He was sentenced to 15 months after he refused to testify to a panel investigating corruption under his government.

However, the Electoral Court overturned the decision. 

South Africa does not allow people sentenced to more than 12 months in prison without the option of paying a fine to run in elections.

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

ANC struggling in polls

MK is expected to cut into the vote share of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Opinion polls show that the ANC, which has been rocked by several corruption scandals, could lose its absolute majority in parliament for the first time since the end of apartheid in 1994.

If it does not achieve an outright majority of seats, the ANC will be forced to seek the support of smaller parties to form government.

MK is projected to receive substantial support in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, which is Zuma's home region.

Editor's note: A previous headline suggesting the Independent Electoral Commission were responsible for overturning the decision was erroneous. This has now been corrected.

lo,sdi/wmr (AFP, AP)