Jacob Zuma Prevails in Legal Challenge to Participate in South Africa’s Election

South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma has been cleared to compete in the upcoming May general election, following an electoral court’s decision to overturn a previous prohibition on his candidacy due to a contempt of court conviction. The electoral commission initially disqualified him, citing a constitutional clause that disqualifies individuals who have been convicted of a crime and received a prison sentence exceeding 12 months from holding public office.

Zuma, 81-year-old, has been actively promoting the newly established uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, diverging from his roots in the African National Congress (ANC), where he was a key figure and served as president from 2009 to 2018 before resigning amid corruption charges. His 2021 sentence to 15 months in jail for refusing to participate in a corruption inquiry was cut short to three months due to health issues.

This court decision is poised to significantly influence the upcoming election’s dynamics. Zuma, now the face of the MK party—which draws its name from the ANC’s historical military arm—positions himself as the legitimate successor to the ANC’s revolutionary lineage, epitomized by Nelson Mandela.

With this victory, he is set to lead the MK party in the election. South African elections function through indirect presidential votes, where the National Assembly’s elected members choose the leader, potentially from the majority party, making Zuma a key contender. This development is a setback for the ANC, which after three decades of dominance, confronts a challenging election that might see its support dip below 50% for the first time since 1994, as indicated by various polls. The MK party, particularly influential in Zuma’s native KwaZulu-Natal, stands to gain from this ruling.