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Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been barred from running for parliament in the upcoming general election on May 29, after the Constitutional Court ruled that his 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court in 2021 disqualifies him. The ruling is based on the country’s constitution, which prohibits anyone sentenced to more than 12 months in prison from holding a parliamentary seat. Zuma, who was forced to resign as president in 2018, has been campaigning for the new uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, posing a threat to the African National Congress (ANC) in the upcoming election.

The ruling is likely to increase political tension ahead of the election, as Zuma remains popular in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), where the MK party is gaining support. Zuma’s jailing in 2021 led to deadly riots in the province, with over 300 people killed and widespread looting. President Cyril Ramaphosa has reassured the public that the authorities are prepared to prevent any further violence, emphasizing the rule of law in South Africa. Despite being disqualified from running for parliament, Zuma’s face will still appear on the ballots as the registered leader of the MK party.

Zuma had initially been disqualified by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) but won an appeal to the Electoral Court. However, the Constitutional Court overturned that decision, stating that Zuma is ineligible to run for parliament for five years after completing his sentence. While Zuma can appeal the ruling, it remains to be seen if he will choose to do so. If Zuma were to become a member of parliament, he would forfeit the benefits he receives as a former president, such as his pension and security. Zuma faces ongoing corruption charges from his time in office, with a trial expected to begin next April.

The decision by the Constitutional Court to bar Jacob Zuma from running for parliament is likely to have significant implications for the upcoming general election in South Africa. As a former president who remains popular in certain regions, Zuma’s disqualification could impact the outcome of the election, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. The ruling underscores the importance of upholding the rule of law in the country and ensuring that individuals convicted of serious offenses are held accountable, regardless of their political standing.

While Zuma can still appeal the court’s decision, it remains uncertain whether he will choose to do so. His status as the registered leader of the MK party means that his face will still be featured on the ballots, potentially influencing voter decisions in the election. The court ruling also highlights the challenges facing Zuma as he continues to face legal troubles stemming from his time in office. The upcoming trial for corruption charges will further test his political influence and standing within the country, as he seeks to defend himself against serious allegations.

Overall, the ruling by the Constitutional Court serves as a reminder of the importance of transparency, accountability, and adherence to the rule of law in South Africa’s political system. The decision to disqualify Zuma from running for parliament sends a clear message that individuals who are convicted of serious offenses cannot hold public office, regardless of their past positions or political affiliations. As the country prepares for the general election, the outcome will be closely watched to see how Zuma’s absence from the ballot impacts the political landscape and the future direction of South Africa.

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