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MK party wins Electoral Court case to allow Jacob Zuma to contest elections

MK party wins Electoral Court case to allow Jacob Zuma to contest elections
Illustrative image | Former South African president Jacob Zuma. (Photos: Ihsaan Haffejee / AFP | Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

The Electoral Court has upheld the appeal by the MK party in its bid to keep former president Jacob Zuma on its parliamentary candidate list.

The uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party has continued its winning streak in the courts and will ensure that the face of its campaign, former president Jacob Zuma, is not removed from its Parliamentary lists.

The Electoral Court ruled on Tuesday afternoon that it was granting the MK party leave to appeal and that the objection against Zuma’s candidacy to become a Member of Parliament had been set aside.

“The application for leave to appeal is granted. The appeal succeeds. The decision of the Electoral Commission of 28 March 2024 in terms of which the Electoral Commission upheld Dr [Maroba] Matsapola’s objection to the second applicant’s candidacy (Mr Zuma) is set aside and substituted with the following: ‘The objection is hereby dismissed’,” the order reads.

Zuma is an integral part of the MK party’s campaign as he has drawn large crowds and support for the party, which was officially registered in September 2023.

However, his appearance on the party’s candidate list came under scrutiny as Zuma appeared to violate the provision in the Constitution that bars candidates who have received a 12-month or more prison sentence, without the option of a fine, within the last five years. A member of the public objected to Zuma’s nomination and the IEC upheld the objection, leading to the MK party appealing in the matter.

Appeal ‘futile’

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, the IEC said it noted the Electoral Court’s order on Zuma’s candidacy, as well as another order upholding the DA’s application to allow voters to cast their ballots at honorary consulates abroad rather than just high commissions or embassies.

“Furthermore, we have noted that the orders were issued without reasoned judgment. In order to understand the basis of the conclusions [reached in both matters, it is important that reasons are provided. We will accordingly request the Electoral Court to hand down reasons for the orders made,” said the IEC.

“Naturally the Commission is taking legal advice on both matters and will chart a way forward based on such advice as well as reasoned judgements that it may receive, hopefully, in the not-too-distant future.”

Election expert and former IEC commissioner Terry Tselane told Daily Maverick that the order handed down by the Electoral Court came as no surprise.

“For me, instead of actually dealing with the merits, just in terms of the procedure after saying that the IEC has the legal powers to administer section 47 of the Constitution that deals with the National Assembly, it has nothing to do with the IEC.

“This is not the first time that a case like this has gone to the Electoral Court. Remember there was an objection against the candidacy of Winnie Mandela in 2009 and the Electoral Court also dismissed the objection and allowed Mrs Mandela to become a candidate,” he said.

Tselane said that he did not believe that the IEC would appeal against the ruling.

“I think the IEC will not appeal it. It would be futile for them to do so because they will still lose. It will also start interfering with their processes as they are preparing for elections. The IEC has nothing to gain by going to the Constitutional Court,” he said.


Judges listened to arguments for and against Zuma’s disqualification from standing for public office on Monday morning at the Electoral Court, sitting at the Johannesburg Division of the High Court in Gauteng.

The MK party took the IEC to court as it believed there was a “deficiency” in the objections to Zuma being a candidate on the parliamentary list.

Representing the MK party, Dali Mpofu SC argued that the IEC had no authority to implement section 47 of the Constitution against Zuma and disqualify him from standing for public office.

The MK party challenged the interpretation of section 47(1)(e), which sets the conditions under which a convicted citizen may not take public office.

Mpofu argued that Zuma spent only three months in prison after he received a remission of sentence, which rendered his initial sentence of 15 months irrelevant.

He also argued that the commission had no jurisdiction to implement section 47 against the former president.

In 2021, Zuma was convicted of being in contempt of court and handed a 15-month sentence for his refusal to testify before the Zondo commission of inquiry into State Capture, which he established.

He was then released on medical parole, but this decision was overturned in court.

When he had to be incarcerated, the 81-year-old former president received a remission of sentence last year, for the remainder of his term.

Read more in Daily Maverick: JZ’s Electoral Court victory makes final weeks before SA’s Elections 2024 alive with possibilities

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC represented the IEC, which argued that it was well within its rights to disqualify Zuma from standing for public office.

Ngcukaitobi said those sentenced to 12 months or more in prison should not participate in public office as the duration indicated the seriousness of the crime. He said while Zuma was released on remission and spent only three months in prison, it did not change the fact that he had been sentenced to 15 months.

“The remission did not change the sentence. It did not say that ‘you are no longer sentenced to 15 months, you are sentenced to three months’. The executive can say, ‘We are forgiving you, you are going home.’ The fact that the President has the power to forgive does not mean you can go back and rewrite the sentence.

“Why do we have section 47(1)(e)? It is because it is a legislative determination that certain convictions would preclude a person from exercising their right to be in Parliament,” he said.

Read more: The unstoppable impunities of being Jacob Zuma — with a lot of help from the ANC

MK victories

MK party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela spoke to the SABC soon after the ruling was handed down.

“This is a spiritual process, the MK party, for it being established as a catalyst for change, is really a blessing for our people.”

He said the party continued to emphasise that people “want president Zuma back inside the Union Buildings as the president. The people want him there. People are tired of the status quo under the Cyril Ramaphosa-led government.

“We want lights, we want water, the people want homes. We will continue on our journey to get a two-thirds majority [to change the Constitution so Zuma can serve a third term]. This is important for our members, downtrodden citizens of our country who want to see change,” Ndhlela said.

He insisted that IEC commissioner Janet Love should have resigned after showing her alleged bias regarding Zuma’s participation in the elections.

In court papers filed by the MK party, they claimed the IEC prematurely judged the issue around Zuma’s participation in the elections and could therefore not have arrived at a different or fair outcome.

In January, Love confirmed at a press briefing that Zuma did not meet the requirements to register as a candidate to stand in this year’s elections.

In the same court, the MK party also recently defeated the ANC’s bid to have its party registration declared unlawful.

The ruling, handed down on 26 March, said: “We therefore find there is nothing unlawful about the registration of the MK by the DCEO [Masego Sheburi] on 7 September 2023. In regards to costs, costs are customarily not awarded in this court and we are not persuaded to depart from this custom.”

In 2023, the ANC also submitted an appeal to the IEC regarding the use of the name and logo of their disbanded military wing being used by the new political grouping, but was unsuccessful. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dieter Patrovski says:

    And so failing to hold Zuma accountable has come back to haunt the ANC. Sweet that the rewards have come so soon. Go Jacob!! Finally end the ANC’s cushy majority!

  • Micheal Steyn says:

    This will forever be known as the Day The South African Constitution Died. Definitive proof that our judiciary IS captured.

    • Gavin Knox says:

      Here I must concur whole heartedly…. the proverbial pawpaw is on its way to the fan…

    • Siphelo dakada says:

      SA is becoming a taxi industry shithole, I want to have white fiends quick so I can leave this place.

      • Geoff Coles says:

        Hopefully you mean friends!

      • NickiE Van den Bergh says:

        Perhaps some white people need black friends for business, asking for a friend.

      • ST ST says:

        Yes indeed if you mean friends. It’s a shame you have not yet learnt that you don’t need friends to travel the world or succeed in life. It can help. But YOU can do it! If you haven’t done it or don’t know how to do it…it’s likely the issue is with you. Not your race. If you haven’t noticed…there plenty races outside SA, including blacks who got there by themselves. There’s also plenty blacks doing well and trying to make a difference here in SA. It’s a shame that you also have not learnt that the real reason someone becomes your friend or you should seek to befriend them. You’re only embarrassing yourself. Godspeed.

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      So the judiciary that sentenced Zuma to prison for 15 months is captured, despite the fact that it was the incumbent president – head of the deployment committee under Zuma – who freed him after 3 months for utterly spurious reasons? Seriously, this is simply the ANC’s idiocy coming back to bite it. My wish is that MK gets just enough votes to scupper the ANC in KZN, but falls one vote short of Zuma making the cut for Parliament.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      A captured Judiciary “ Africa Style!”
      Next the Guptas will be back as members of parliament! ( sorry cant bear to put it into Caps!) respect for the Rule of Law has well and truly gone out the window for me.

    • Denise Smit says:

      If you watched the “show” “Dali and Judges versus Ngcakaitobi” you could have come to no other conclusion

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Yet again, the ANC, headed in this instance by their SG, Fikile Mbalula, have been thoroughly out thought, and out strategists, by disreputable rogues. They simply are outclassed, even when up against the village idiot.

    This says all you need to know about the ANC, and sadly, the electorate.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Who cares. Don’t get side tracked by this side show.

    If like me you want a brighter future for yourself and your children there is only one important thing you need to do: Vote DA.

    And if you want to do more then explain to as many others possibly can why they should do the same. Do it at work, do it at home, do it on the radio, or do it here like I am. Every single vote counts for our collective future.

  • DON G says:

    Another own goal by the ANC.

  • Senzo Moyakhe says:

    Smells like somebody is trying to avoid a July ’21. Sad to set such a legal precedent on the basis of intimidation…

  • Brett Redelinghuys says:

    Must respect the courts decision. Now let’s move on.

    • Dennis Haig says:

      When civil services are not held to account, dictatorships prevail.

      The previous administration had courts uphold segragation, should the people then have just accepted the life style and “…respect the courts decision.” and “… move on.”

      The court, like any other entity in RSA is not above the law and are there to apply the law, which clearly states who cannot be entered into parliament.

      IEC could have rather argued more on what their powers are around managing elections. Making Dali’s point mute. But now it will be appealed by the South African king of the stalingrad defence.

  • Pet Bug says:

    So utterly South African!
    Rules, rules and more rules – everywhere you turn.
    But nobody to implement them.
    So who administers S.47 of the Constitution, the section that restricts who qualifies to be on the ballot paper for elections…?
    If not the IEC, or the electoral court? So?
    Does parliament kick the person out?
    Do we all go thru the rigmarole, and theeeeen, sometime there’s an objection, ad-hoc subcommittee, full committees constituted, caucusing, smokehouse back-room deals, maybe a vote eventually.
    An appeal, counter-appeal, counter-counter appeal.
    Meanwhile Jac is getting a lekker taxpayer funded salary.
    Life’s schweeet.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      I suspect a technical glitch like jurisdiction could be the issue here, it will benefit the MK with potential voters who will view Zuma as a victim who deserves to be the hero, when it comes to parliament and the path to the presidency the criminal record may then become a factor, however this can only affect the individual concerned.
      But a question can then be raised about the legality of knowingly having a person with a criminal record on the ballot.
      This issue indicates a big problem ahead and again it has the potential of being misinterpreted as a persecution of the individual with not so great responses on the ground.

    • Gerrie Pretorius says:

      “So who administers S.47 of the Constitution, … “
      Pray tell. The law is there, but nobody to implement/administer it!

  • Peter Merrington says:

    With the popular vote shifting and Zuma allowed to stand, the ANC won’t reach 50% in KZN. Will they and MK be willing to make an alliance to govern KZN together? Mzantsi gets stranger and stranger with each passing season.

  • Troy Marshall says:

    Has Jacob Zuma ever considered buying a lotto ticket?

  • James Baxter says:

    But, MK is the same as all other parties. Maybe I have become cynical. Democracy in the main has been captured by big capital. Democracy has utterly failed to safeguard the interest of the people. The people have become cattle of political and business leaders. What are we voting for but to protect the private property of the 1% . People are themselves a disappointment, their level of gullibility is astonishing and the general ignorance pervading our society is so soul crashing that one wishes to travel into the near future and live with AI, since AI will destroy us all in the next 20 years or so

    • drew barrimore says:

      Not the system to blame, but the stupidity of the people. Same goes for Trumpists in the US.

      • Craig King says:

        It isn’t Trump who has been locking up his opponents though. He never has.

        • Johann Olivier says:

          Mr. King. What are you talking about? As far as I know, in the US, properly constituted courts pass sentence & have the guilty locked up. Properly constituted courts, with ‘Rules of Evidence. NO president has that ability. You’ve spent too much time on FB.

  • Skinyela Skinyela says:

    Let wait for the reasons of the court, it is possible that the order only relate to his right to stand or be the face of his Party even though he won’t be legally suitable to be an MP.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    So another Ramaphosa cock- up…. he’s good at that.

  • Dennis Gore says:

    Thanks to the DAILY MAVERICK for keeping the public in the loop on what is happening around the country.

  • Hidden Name says:

    Irrational and illogical conclusion by the court. Will be overturned shortly, for sure. At least it’s interesting, right? (Yes, that’s sarcasm)

  • Senzo Moyakhe says:

    Greedy Mantush very conspicuous by his absence. Hhmmm, perhaps a classic case of choking on his words?

    “Quid enim vos adepto redde”

  • davidramol says:

    Its getting interesting and things are hotying up.

  • I’m glad Zuma won, i mean history is repeating itself. In 2005 Zuma face similar obstacle and triumphed. Listen to Izigane zoma Msholozi to remember. To the Mk party cheers.

  • It means those who have criminal record are more than welcome to serve in all government. That’s where all ex convicts and awaiting trialist will come and squad in.

  • Richard Blake says:

    More evidence that I judiciary is broken. If the IEC can’t even enforce its own rules then we have to wonder if it is capable of managing free and fair elections.

  • Wayne Holt says:

    Isn’t Ngcakaitobi the hot shot advocate the ANC used in the case in the ICJ? Surely id this matter was as simple as it is in terms of legal standing he should have aware of this? Either way it must be embarrassing to drop to this low after receiving a hero’s welcome at OR Thambo to this? As the article states an appeal will also be lost and the court has already ruled in the same fashion with Winnie Mandela. The swings and roundabouts of politics and chicanery.

  • I truly salute efforts and decision from court to allow President JZ to return, to have his name cleared and listed to return into politics… May God Almighty forgive his previous trespasses and may HE bless him as he went throughout a lot …

  • Michele Rivarola says:

    Courts apply the law so all those unhappy with the ruling will have to wait for the reasoning behind it. Change the law if you are unhappy, criticising those who are tasked with applying it is immature. As much as I admire TN as one of the leading senior counsel in SA he was handed a poisoned chalice by the IEC and his arguments were the best that could be mustered under the circumstances. We’ll see if any civil society organisation will appeal the ruling and if they do on what basis.

  • Harry Singh says:

    I knew during the court proceedings that JZ will win because of the spineless judges. Don’t forget JZ said “the ANC will rule until Jesus comes “
    Can this man be trusted?

  • Mr Zuma he exposed himself to the world and the new coming generation that how dangerous it is for not having school and become politician, what he’s doing is very shameful, to the nation and the entire world,

  • Craig King says:

    How very American our politics have become.

  • Philip Machanick says:

    The Winnie case is different. Her sentence was wholly suspended and the specific timing hinged on when it was “completed”. The court decided that the period of suspension could not count, as it made it worse than if she had gone to jail for the original time specified.

    That sets a precedent for not counting a fully suspended sentence as being sentenced to an effective term with a completion date. It does not say anything about a sentence cut short by remission. The judgment does however set a standard that disqualification must be on very clear grounds, as it impugns a constitutional right, S19(3)(b), to stand and, if elected, hold office.

  • Johan Buys says:

    If a person is too sick to serve their prison sentence, are they also too sick to serve in parliament?

  • Estellebravo46 says:

    I don’t understand, he has already served 2 terms as President so if they won he couldn’t serve another term, so says the constitution?

  • Penny Philip says:

    Why would voters worry about Zuma having a criminal record? I mean they voted him in with a rape case pending & the arms deal corruption case. He truly is the epitome of a corrupt African politician. If voted in shows all the potential needed to become a ‘President For Life’, who will have his son succeed him.

  • bonisavusi says:

    More about current news

  • LindaP N says:

    Protecting what is left of our economy should be what drives our vote – our higher power. Zuma in as President, Shivambu as Financial Minister, lets see how the world reacts to South Africa! What the Rand does? We don’t have much to choose from as far as leaders go and with party manifesto’s that are, well.. disappointing, popularist, uninspiring, but all of us are feeling the brunt of events, actions, non-actions by most of the politicians looking to be part of these elections. (And I am not just talking about the ANC!) We have enough information from the Zondo Commissions report, for example, to be able to see the road ahead should this guy get back in and have any say in running this country! I’m sure the Guptas are rubbing their greedy hands together, book their tickets on a South African military plane, set up their blue light brigade,,, just waiting for an easier payday! After all, its just going to be left up to these egotistical, power hungry (and money hungry) politicians to continue on stealing, lying, threatening, using criminal tactics and force. I keep hearing about the Constitution, the Constitution this and the Constitution that…. well… this obviously means nothing!! To get back to our higher power, the world will react and one thing we can almost guarantee it won’t be to South Africa’s benefit!!

  • Philip Machanick says:

    The Winnie case had different grounds. The argument was that a suspended sentence didn’t count. In part she was saved by the fact that “completion” of a suspended sentence is rubbery.

    In Zuma’s case, he was sentenced to 15 months so to make it comparable, the courts would have to accept that remission de facto shortened the sentence vs. the view I have seen before that it does not.

    So grounds for success could be that the IEC lacks jurisdiction (that wasn’t argued in the Winnie case – so it’s not clear if that can be taken as precedent) or that the IEC failed to follow the proper process.

    Either way, parliament could still refuse to seat him. Unless the court has a more substantive reason for refusing to bar his candidacy.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Ah good old Mzansi where a party goes to court to ensure that a convicted criminal can be their representative. What an absolute waste of democracy we are. As to the judgement, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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