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May 20, 2024, 9:59am EDT
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Semafor Signals

South Africa top court rules Zuma can’t run for president

Insights from IOL, Al Jazeera, and Semafor

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Former South African President Jacob Zuma speaks to his suppoters during the launch of the election manifesto of his new political party, uMkhonto we Sizwe, ahead of a general election on May 29, at a rally in Soweto, South Africa, May 18, 2024. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters
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The News

Former South African president Jacob Zuma will not be allowed to run for the job again in the country’s upcoming elections, the nation’s top court ruled on Monday. South African law disqualifies people who have been convicted of a crime from running for president.

Zuma was jailed for contempt for 15 months in 2021 for failing to attend a corruption inquiry, although he only spent 2 months in prison and was released on medical parole.

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Zuma, who has been accused of fraud, racketeering, and corruption, broke from the governing African National Congress party and launched his own rival party, the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party. Zuma had hoped to lead the party into the presidential election on May 29.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Zuma’s name will still appear on the ballot

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IOL

Election materials have been printed and South Africans living abroad have already cast their ballots in the election, which will be held next week. That means Zuma’s name will still appear on the ballot, Sihle Mlambo wrote in the South African outlet IOL. The court’s ruling could work in the MK party’s favor ahead of the election, political analyst Tessa Dooms said: The party could use the decision as a “mobilizing tool” to drum up support, she explained. “If anything, it will give the party a lot of political [mileage] in the last week to the elections,” Dooms said, and with Zuma still appearing on the ballot, “the MK Party is the party of Jacob Zuma regardless of whether he is a candidate.”

Zuma’s shadow looms over South African political landscape

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Semafor

Zuma could be the election’s “king maker,” analysts have said, since the MK party could end up holding the balance of power in the election. By contrast, the ANC are predicted to lose some support — if South Africa ends up having to be governed by a coalition, then it could need MK’s support. Zuma also enjoys widespread popularity: When he was jailed in 2021, riots broke out. “Zuma is an effective political performer who remains influential, despite having been widely discredited over alleged state capture during his time in power,” journalist Sam Mkokeli previously wrote in Semafor. “The reality is that, for all Zuma’s well documented flaws, many South Africans will agree with his assessment that the ANC isn’t the party it once was.”

Zuma wants to ‘frustrate’ ANC

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Source:  
Al Jazeera

It may not have been Zuma’s goal to actually be re-elected this year, one analyst argued. The former president is notoriously “vindictive”, and it’s probable that he wanted to “leverage his political capital to support the MK party and frustrate the ANC,” Ongama Mtimka, a politics and history lecturer at Nelson Mandela University, told Al Jazeera. “I think he wants to show President Ramaphosa that he can bring a formidable challenge.” While MK is unlikely to win the most seats in the election, the party will still give ANC a run for its money, Al Jazeera noted.

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