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Corruption Watch says Zuma’s ineligibility for Parly represents win for civil society


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Corruption Watch says Zuma’s ineligibility for Parly represents win for civil society

Image of Jacob Zuma
Former President Jacob Zuma

21st May 2024

By: Thabi Shomolekae
Creamer Media Senior Writer


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Non-profit organisation Corruption Watch (CW) said on Tuesday that it is critical that the country’s election laws are subjected to a reasonable interpretation, noting the Constitutional Court’s (ConCourt's) judgment on former President Jacob Zuma’s eligibility to run as an MP.

The ConCourt ruled on Monday that Zuma was not eligible or qualified to stand for election to the National Assembly (NA) based on his conviction and sentencing to 15 months’ imprisonment for contempt of court in 2021, after defying a court order to testify before the Zondo Commission.


The apex court overturned an earlier ruling by the Electoral Court.

CW said the judgment represented a win for civil society.


Corruption Watch noted Section 47(1)(e) of the Constitution, which stated that politicians were not eligible for candidature until five years after the completion of a sentence.  

The Electoral Court order is set aside and replaced, dismissing the former president’s appeal.

CW executive director Karam Singh explained that in its submission as amicus curiae in this matter, CW argued that a person convicted and sentenced by a court was disqualified from being a member of the NA, which it said came into effect immediately after sentencing.

“It is the fact that a sentence has been imposed, and not the sentence served, that applies. The organisation also highlights the importance of the correct application of 47(1)(e) as a matter of public interest, emphasising that its purpose of disqualification is aimed at maintaining the integrity of the democratic regime, ensuring that members of the NA respect the rule of law and are not serious violators of the law,” explained Singh.

Corruption Watch highlighted that allowing such persons to stand for office would “subvert” the purpose of the constitutional provision and would allow for an “arbitrary distinction” between individuals convicted by the ConCourt and the lower courts.

These points were evident in the judgment, CW said.

Singh noted that there had been little accountability for State capture, which he said heightened the need for consequences to flow from Zuma’s failure to respect the Zondo Commission proceedings.

“It remains disappointing and concerning that charges emanating from the Arms Deal have not been concluded and we await the start of that trial in 2025,” Corruption Watch added.

The organisation praised the “soundness of this judgment, its careful and thorough review of all arguments leading to a solid conclusion”, which it said was a demonstration of the strength and independence of the South African judiciary.

“The contributions of the four amici curiae – CW, the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, and the Black Lawyers Association – also emphasises the vital role that civil society continues to play in protecting the health of the democracy,” said Singh.


Meanwhile, the uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) Party noted the judgment saying while it was disappointing, it had not disheartened the party.

“…instead it has reinforced our conviction that the current system, where just 10 unelected individuals can make lifetime decisions for 62-million people, is fundamentally flawed. Worse in this current case, six of the ten judges were glaring conflicted, raising serious questions about their refusal to recuse themselves,” it said.

The party stated that it was not deterred, saying the people’s mandate rally had demonstrated that South Africans from all walks of life love the party and Zuma.

On Monday the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa said it would remove Zuma’s name from MK Party’s candidate nomination list on the election ballot for May 29.

MK assured its members and supporters that it remained “steadfast and undeterred” by the “enemies of the poor”. It said Zuma continued to lead the MK Party and would appear on the ballot despite not being a candidate.

It was also adamant that Zuma would be reinstated into the Union Buildings to lead the country, once the party secured a two-third majority, which it said was becoming “increasingly obvious”.


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