South Africa’s Top Court Blocks Zuma from Contesting Election

South Africa’s Top Court Blocks Zuma from Contesting Election

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that former President Jacob Zuma was disqualified from contesting parliamentary elections because of a prior criminal conviction.

The decision by the nation’s top court raises the risk that supporters of Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party will foment unrest in the run-up to the May 29 vote, although it is unlikely it will have a major bearing on the outcome. Party leaders have vowed to destabilize the ballot if Zuma is barred from competing, Bloomberg reported.

South Africa’s constitution bars anyone sentenced to more than 12 months in jail from being a member of parliament. Zuma was convicted of contempt after he refused to testify at a judicial inquiry into industrial-scale corruption that took place during his almost nine-year tenure as the nation’s president.

“This court concludes that Mr. Zuma was convicted of an offense and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment,” Constitutional Court Judge Leona Theron said in a ruling handed down in Johannesburg on Monday, which overturned a ruling from a lower tribunal. He “is accordingly not eligible to be a member of, and not qualified to stand, for election to the National Assembly until five years have lapsed since the completion” of his sentence.

Zuma’s arrest in 2021 triggered riots that claimed 354 lives, and he was freed on medical parole after servicing less than two months of his 15-month sentence. While the courts ruled that his release was unlawful, he was granted clemency by President Cyril Ramaphosa in November last year.

The Constitutional Court found that the provision that disqualified candidates for contesting parliamentary elections focused on the length of the sentence imposed, rather than the time they served, Theron said.

The rand gained as much as 0.3% against the dollar on Monday and was 0.1% higher 18.1478 at 10:37 a.m. in Johannesburg.

The election is expected to be the ruling African National Congress’s toughest challenge since it came to power 30 years ago, as it faces a voter backlash over its inability to revive anemic economic growth, address one of the world’s highest unemployment rates, and curb rampant crime and corruption.

The ANC’s national majority is under threat as the electorate switches its support to Zuma’s newly formed party and other rivals.

Ramaphosa said he wasn’t concerned that the court ruling would trigger fresh unrest.

“Should there be any threat of violence our security forces are ready,” he said in an interview on 702 Talk Radio on Monday. “We will not even mince our words when it comes to something like that.”

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