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Court rules former South African leader Jacob Zuma cannot stand in election

Former South African president Jacob Zuma cannot stand in forthcoming elections (AP)
Former South African president Jacob Zuma cannot stand in forthcoming elections (AP)

South Africa’s highest court has ruled that former president Jacob Zuma is not allowed to stand as a candidate for parliament in a national election next week because of a previous criminal conviction.

The constitutional court’s decision will likely increase political tensions ahead of the pivotal vote.

The court said that a section of the constitution disqualifying people from standing for office if they have been sentenced to more than 12 months in prison without the option of a fine does apply to the 82-year-old Mr Zuma.

He was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2021 by the constitutional court for contempt of court for refusing to testify at a judicial inquiry into government corruption.

Jacob Zuma
Mr Zuma’s MK party is expected to erode support for the ANC (AP)

The case over whether that sentence disqualified Mr Zuma from the election came about because he had no option to appeal against the ruling by the apex court that sent him to prison.

Mr Zuma was South African president from 2009-2018, but resigned under a cloud of corruption allegations.

He made a return to politics last year with a new party and has been fiercely critical of the ruling African National Congress party he once led.

The election is expected to be the toughest test for the ANC, which has been in government for 30 years since the end of the apartheid system of white minority rule.

Jacob Zuma
Mr Zuma remains popular in some parts of South Africa (AP)

The ruling party is in danger of losing its majority for the first time, which would likely force Africa’s most advanced economy into a national coalition government.

Mr Zuma’s new MK Party is expected to erode some of the ANC’s vote due to the former leader’s popularity in some parts of the country of 62 million.

He was also in line to make a contentious return to parliament six years after being forced to step down as president by the ANC he led because of allegations that there was widespread government graft during his time in office.

Mr Zuma has also been charged with corruption in a separate case and is expected to go on trial next April. He has pleaded not guilty.