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Former President Zuma wins appeal against exclusion by the IEC

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SundayWorld


The Electoral Court has overturned the Independent Electoral Commission’s (IEC) ruling to disqualify former president Jacob Zuma from contesting the upcoming elections for public office.

“Having heard counsel for the parties and having read the papers filed for record, the following order is made: The application for leave to appeal is granted. The appeal succeeds,” ruled the Electoral Court.

“The decision of the electoral commission of March 28, in terms of which the electoral commission upheld Dr Matsapola’s objection to the second applicant’s candidature [Mr Zuma], is set aside and substituted with the following: ‘The objection is hereby dismissed.

“No order is made as to costs.”

The reversal of the decision to disqualify the former statesman means that he is eligible to contest the general elections on May 29.

The ruling opens up avenues for Zuma to participate in the democratic process and pursue his political ambitions to complete what he has described as his “unfinished business” at the Union Buildings, if voted into power.

Zuma, who appeared before the court sitting in the Johannesburg High Court on Monday, sought to challenge his disqualification following objections raised by the IEC based on his 2021 conviction for contempt of court.

Zuma’s prison sentence

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, representing the IEC, argued against Zuma’s appeal, citing constitutional provisions that bar individuals with convictions exceeding 12 months without the option of a fine from holding public office.

Ngcukaitobi emphasised the principle that “law breakers should not be lawmakers”  and stressed the severity of Zuma’s conviction, which resulted in a 15-month prison sentence.

Despite Zuma’s subsequent release on parole after serving three months in prison, Ngcukaitobi reiterated that executive decisions do not alter court-imposed sentences, maintaining that Zuma’s status as a convicted individual renders him ineligible for public office.

“It was not even the decision of the president to change it from 15 months to three months,” argued Ngcukaitobi.

“We have to confront this matter and not try to tiptoe around the matter and make excuses for this appellant [Zuma].

“The president did not change Mr Zuma’s sentence; he had the power to change the term of the sentence.

“He could have been released, but it had nothing to do with Section 47 of the constitution. All the court has to consider is whether it applied Section 47 correctly or not.

“The fact that the president decided to forgive Mr Zuma and many others is irrelevant to the sentence he was given by the court. Mr Zuma is disqualified.”

Denial of political rights

The legal battle also saw advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party, passionately argue against what he deemed the denial of political rights.

Mpofu challenged the IEC’s authority to interpret and implement constitutional provisions, asserting that such powers should lie within the domain of the National Assembly.

Furthermore, allegations of bias within the IEC were raised during the proceedings, with concerns over commissioner Janet Love’s purported prejudgment of Zuma’s eligibility.

The MK Party’s legal team underscored the importance of impartiality and accused the commission of precluding fair deliberation.

In a final plea to the court, Mpofu argued against the ease with which the IEC could exclude candidates, highlighting the broader implications for democratic principles and the right to participate in politics.

“In South Africa or any other country, we should be extremely cautious before we deny the political rights of anybody,” he said.

“The mere reason that we have a constitution and the reason why we are here today is because people were denied the right to vote, the right to participate in politics, and many other rights.”