‘We’re disappointed but Zuma remains the leader of MK’

The uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party remains unfazed despite a Constitutional Court blow rejecting former president Jacob Zuma’s candidature for the National Assembly ahead of the May 29 general elections.

Reacting to the judgment outside court on Monday, MK Party secretary-general Sihle Ngubane said the party is disappointed but will not despair. 

“We are disappointed by the judgment, but Jacob Zuma remains the leader of the MK Party and will be on the ballot. This does not affect our campaign in any way,” Ngubane said. 

The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma is not eligible to be a member of and not qualified to stand for election to the National Assembly.

Remission of sentence irrelevant

The court found that Section 47(1)(e) of the constitution disqualifies Zuma from being a member of the National Assembly.

“Section 47 of the constitution focuses on the sentence imposed, not the length of the sentence served,” said Constitutional Court judge Leona Theron. 

The court also found that remission of sentence is irrelevant, saying it does not alter the prison sentence imposed.

“The applicant is granted leave to appeal directly to this court. It is declared that Mr Zuma was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment for purposes of Section 47[1])[e] of the constitution and is accordingly not eligible to be a member of, and not qualified to stand for election to, the National Assembly until five years have elapsed since the completion of his sentence.

“The order of the Electoral Court is set aside and replaced with the following: The appeal is dismissed. The counter-application is dismissed. There is no order as to costs,” reads the judgment.

Zuma remains leader of the MK Party

This means that Zuma cannot represent the MK Party as an MP in the seventh administration.

However, he remains the leader of the MK Party, and his face remains on the ballot papers.

Reacting to the judgment, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) said that the ruling clarified its authority regarding the eligibility of candidates for the National Assembly, confirming that it can enforce Section 47(1) of the constitution. 

This allows the IEC to proceed with preparations for the elections without concern for legal challenges.

The commission stated that the judgment will not impact the ballot papers; however, Zuma’s name will be removed from the MK Party’s candidate list, though his photo will remain among the party’s identifiers.

“Now that the matter has been settled by the highest court and given that the constitutional uncertainties have been clarified, the commission can continue with final preparations for free and fair 2024 national and provincial elections single-mindedly, without apprehension that the elections are susceptible to challenge,” the commission said.

“To avoid confusion, the commission reiterates that the judgment will not affect the ballot papers for the elections in any way.

“The photograph of Mr Jacob Zuma will remain in the cluster of identifiers of the uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) Party.

“The name of Mr Jacob Zuma will, however, be removed from the list of candidates nominated by the MK Party.” 

Friend of the court

Neeshan Balton, the executive director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said the organisation sought to join the case as a friend of the court because Zuma “should never have been allowed to run in the elections”. 

Balton argued that Zuma’s candidature was inappropriate from the start, as MPs must pledge to uphold the constitution, which “Zuma had defied by not adhering to Constitutional Court rulings”. 

“From the outset, we thought that the former president should not have been a candidate,” said Balton.

“Zuma was found to have been defiant, not wanting to adhere to the rulings of the court, and should, therefore, not have been considered a candidate in the first place.”

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