Constitution muddies Zuma’s path to become president again

“The president’s term of office begins on assuming office and ends upon a vacancy occurring or when the person next elected president assumes office.

“No person may hold office as president for more than two terms … when a person is elected to fill a vacancy in the office of president, the period between that election and the next election of a president is not regarded as a term,” reads Section 88 of the constitution.

Recently, former president Jacob Zuma hinted at the possibility of becoming the presidential candidate for the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe (MK Party).

This somewhat created optimism among his followers who were eager for his return, believing he could once again lead the country.

Zuma served as the fourth democratic president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018, completing two terms in office.

Zuma not eligible

However, according to the constitution, he is ineligible to serve as president again.

Some argue that he did not complete his second term, as he resigned before it ended, while others point to President Cyril Ramaphosa, who served as acting president during the transition.

The constitution addresses such situations. When Ramaphosa stepped in for Zuma, it was not his designated term.

Instead, he assumed Zuma’s position, indicating that he had a significant opportunity to potentially secure a second term, particularly if the ANC emerged victorious once more.

Despite legal restrictions barring Zuma from running for president again, a significant number of his supporters seem unaware of this reality.

Perhaps South Africans should have considered this aspect of the constitution before rallying behind the chant “Zuma must go”.

The constitution is accessible to the public for a crucial reason – to be read and embraced.

The transparency afforded by making the constitution public is a cornerstone of democratic governance, promoting citizen engagement and upholding the rule of law.

Zuma commands a significant following nationwide, undoubtedly holding the potential to rally massive support for any political party he aligns with.

MK Party campaign

In December 2023, he explicitly declared that he would campaign and vote for the MK Party in the 2024 elections, despite maintaining his active membership in the ANC.

With a distinguished political career including serving as president and holding various roles in government, it is improbable that Zuma is unaware of the constitutional implications, particularly Section 88.

This strategic move appears to be a calculated chess move, leveraging his influence for numerical advantage.

As the country braces for the upcoming general elections, speculation surrounding the MK Party’s role is rife.

The party’s existence appears to be a thorn in the side of the governing ANC and anti-Zuma activists, raising questions about its motives.

Many argue that the proliferation of political parties like the MK Party is intended not necessarily to secure victory but to erode ANC’s support.

Nonetheless, a national victory seems likely, even if by a slim margin.

Coalition partnerships

In a worst-case scenario, a significant drop could see the ANC securing between 47% and 50% nationally, necessitating coalition partnerships.

The governing party might turn to smaller parties for alliances to achieve the required simple majority of 50 plus one.

As the much-anticipated general election approaches, it is crucial for voters to be discerning and well-informed.

Rather than merely voting for an individual, cast your vote in support of democracy, a stronger economy, and a stable government.

Your vote should be a contribution to the broader welfare of the nation.

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