South Africa’s Highest Court Says Jacob Zuma Can’t Serve in Parliament

By John Mercury May 21, 2024

South Africa’s highest court on Monday ruled that former President Jacob Zuma was not eligible to serve in Parliament, a decision that may deepen political turmoil in the country just over a week before a crucial national election.

The decision threatens the political future of the 82-year-old Mr. Zuma, a former anti-apartheid hero who once led the liberation party, the African National Congress. Mr. Zuma had a bitter falling out with the A.N.C. last year after announcing he was supporting a new political formation.

The Constitutional Court, overturning a special electoral court’s earlier decision, ruled that Mr. Zuma could not stand as a candidate in the May 29 election because of a past criminal conviction.

Even though he cannot serve in Parliament, Mr. Zuma’s face will still appear on the ballot next to his new party, uMkhonto weSizwe, or M.K., because he is registered as its leader, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa. He will, however, be removed from the list of candidates nominated to represent the party in the National Assembly, the commission said.

Mr. Zuma is a populist figure who attracts a devoted following, and his image could be enough to lift his party’s fortunes and hurt the A.N.C. The A.N.C. is fighting to maintain the absolute majority it has held since the start of South Africa’s democracy 30 years ago.

The M.K. party denounced the court’s decision in a statement on Monday, calling the court’s justices “10 highly compromised and conflicted individuals” who have too much power under the country’s constitutional democracy.

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