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Former South African President Jacob Zuma excluded from May elections

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma excluded from May elections

Jacob Zuma cannot theoretically run for re-election since he has already served two presidential terms.

Johannesburg:

South African election officials said Thursday they had excluded former President Jacob Zuma from May’s elections, further stoking tensions ahead of the polls.

The country is due to hold general elections on May 29, which is expected to be the most competitive vote since the advent of democracy in 1994.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is on the verge of falling below 50 percent of the vote for the first time since it came to power at the end of apartheid.

The party is losing support amid economic weakness and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Zuma, 81, was forced from office in 2018 following corruption allegations, but he still wields political influence.

He is campaigning for the opposition party uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) in an attempt to revive his career, calling members of his former party, the ANC, “traitors”.

“In the case of former President Zuma, yes, we received an objection, which was upheld,” Electoral Commission chairman Mosotho Moepya told reporters, without giving details.

“The party which appointed him has been informed”, as have those who oppose this decision, he added.

The decision can be appealed before April 2.

MK spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndlhela told AFP the party was “studying the merits of this objection but we will of course appeal”.

– ‘Theft of intellectual property’ –

The election commission’s decision is not the MP’s only problem.

The ANC filed a new court application on Wednesday to stop the MP from using its name, alleging intellectual property theft.

According to the ruling party, uMkhonto we Sizwe’s name and logo are similar to those of the now-disbanded apartheid-era military wing of the ANC, which could mislead or confuse voters.

A court decision should be announced in the coming days.

On Tuesday, a court rejected an initial claim by the ANC that the MP had been illegally registered, allowing the small radical party to run in the elections.

The legislative elections, at the end of which the winner will appoint a president, promise to be tense.

If the ANC falls below 50 percent of the vote, it will force the party formerly led by Nelson Mandela to form a coalition to stay in power.

The latest opinion polls put the ANC with just over 40 percent of the vote, the main opposition Democratic Alliance with about 27 percent and the MK with 13 percent.

The electoral commission said that under the Constitution, “any person convicted of an offense and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment without possibility of fine” cannot stand for election.

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in prison in June 2021 after refusing to testify before a panel investigating financial corruption and cronyism under his presidency.

He was released on medical parole only two months into his sentence.

But his imprisonment sparked protests, riots and looting that left more than 350 people dead, the worst violence South Africa has seen since the advent of democracy.

An appeals court later ruled that Zuma’s release had been unlawfully granted and ordered him to return to prison.

But upon his return to a correctional center, he immediately benefited from a reduced sentence for non-violent offenders approved by President Cyril Ramaphosa, his main rival and successor.

In addition to his contempt conviction in 2021, he faces separate corruption charges in connection with an arms procurement scandal in the 1990s, when he was vice president.

Zuma cannot theoretically run for re-election since he has already served two presidential terms.

The final electoral lists should be published within a fortnight.

The electoral commission received 82 appeals concerning candidates nominated by 21 political parties.

Zuma’s declaration in December that he would campaign for MK was a blow to the ANC, as it remains popular with Zulus.

The announcement of his exclusion comes as the leader of South Africa’s largest opposition party, John Steenhuisen of the Democratic Alliance, refused to rule out a coalition deal with the ANC after the election.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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