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The Constitutional Court in South Africa has barred former President Jacob Zuma from becoming a member of parliament after weeks of legal disputes and rulings. Zuma, who now leads the new uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party, has been a thorn in the side of his former party, the African National Congress (ANC), ahead of the general elections. Despite the court ruling, experts believe that Zuma’s political life will continue as he remains the face of his party and attracts support from potential voters.

Zuma’s ambition to return to Parliament and become president again on the MK ticket has been hindered by a 15-month jail sentence for contempt of court in 2021. The Electoral Commission of South Africa disqualified him from holding a seat in parliament, but a decision by the Electoral Court initially gave him the green light to stand as a candidate. However, the Constitutional Court ultimately ruled that Zuma could not run for parliament for five years from when his prison sentence was completed.

Political analyst Ongama Mtimka stated that Zuma’s loyal supporters will still vote for the MK party because he is the party’s only political capital. Zuma relies on populist policies, particularly in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, where he has gained support. The ANC has been losing support, and polls predict that it may be forced to rule as part of a coalition for the first time since apartheid ended in 1994. Zuma has leveraged dissatisfaction with the governing party, and his supporters have followed him.

The MK party remains undeterred by the Constitutional Court decision and believes that Zuma’s presence on the ballot as the party’s leader will not affect its performance in the upcoming polls. Zuma’s supporters expressed disappointment with the court’s judgement and reaffirmed their leader’s position within the party. Zuma, who was president from 2009, has faced legal battles during and after his time in office, including a recent jail sentence for contempt of court.

Zuma has been accused of undermining the rule of law and state institutions since the end of his presidency. He is due to face a corruption trial next April after seeking to avoid prosecution for almost two decades. Despite claiming innocence, many of his key supporters and MK party candidates face allegations of corruption and state capture. While Zuma blames the ANC government for failing to improve the lives of South Africans, critics argue that he ruled under the same system he now criticizes.

Polls suggest that the MK party could perform well in KwaZulu-Natal, where it seeks to erode ANC support. Another poll indicates that the MK party could be among the top five political parties nationally in terms of electoral support. The ANC’s support is predicted to be below 50 percent in the upcoming elections, with the official opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) positioned as the second-largest party. Despite the legal challenges and controversies surrounding him, Zuma remains a prominent figure in South African politics, continuing to influence the country’s political landscape.

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