Jacob Zuma Criticizes South Africa’s Top Court Over Election Disqualification

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma has sharply criticized the country’s highest court and his former allies within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) following his disqualification from next week’s election. In a video message released on social media on Thursday, May 23, Zuma vowed to fight for his rights “in a disciplined way.”

Continued Political Ambitions Despite Bar

Despite being barred from standing as a candidate, the 82-year-old ex-leader made it clear that he would continue to campaign against the ANC he once led, promoting his new political party in the run-up to Wednesday’s election. Zuma resigned from the presidency six years ago amidst a storm of corruption allegations but remains determined to remain a political force.

Constitutional Court Ruling

Zuma’s disqualification came on Monday via a ruling from the Constitutional Court, which cited a section of the constitution stipulating that anyone sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, without the option of a fine, is ineligible to stand for Parliament until five years after completing the sentence. Zuma received a 15-month prison sentence in 2021 for contempt of court after refusing to testify at a corruption inquiry.

Positioning himself as a victim of a biased legal system, Zuma called on South Africans to “take a stand to correct the wrongs of this country,” while also emphasizing his desire for peace, equality, and freedom. His criticism of the Constitutional Court judges, whom he referred to as “learned friends,” highlighted his belief that they had unjustly restricted his freedom and democracy.

“I’ve decided to continue fighting … in different ways to convince everyone that I am right. The learned friends are not,” Zuma declared. “I will continue, in a disciplined way, to fight for my rights.”

Zuma’s options for appealing his disqualification are virtually non-existent, as the Constitutional Court represents the highest authority on constitutional matters in South Africa.

Zuma’s unexpected return to politics late last year with his newly formed uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK Party) has significantly shaken South Africa’s political landscape. The ANC, in power since the end of apartheid in 1994, is particularly vulnerable and could lose its majority for the first time in this election.

Analysts predict that Zuma’s new party will further erode the ANC’s support, compounding the challenges faced by the ruling party. Zuma has also directed sharp criticism at current President Cyril Ramaphosa, his former deputy, increasing tensions in what is considered the most critical election in South Africa’s recent history.

South African authorities are acutely aware of Zuma’s influence, especially after his 2021 jailing led to a week of violent unrest, resulting in over 350 deaths. This period of rioting, looting, and burning was among the worst violence the country had experienced since the end of apartheid.

As the nation approaches a potentially pivotal election, Zuma’s defiant stance and continued political maneuvering underscore the complexities and challenges facing South Africa’s democracy.


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