Zuma not allowed to stand for Parliament: Constitutional Court

 ·20 May 2024

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) has found that former President Jacob Zuma is not eligible to stand for election to the National Assembly because of a prior criminal conviction.

In a unanimous decision delivered by the ConCourt on Monday, May 20, 2024, the court found that there was no difference between a conviction for a criminal offence and a civil conviction for contempt of court.

This decision set aside an earlier Electoral Court judgment delivered on 9 April, which had ultimately overturned the Electoral Commission’s (IEC’s) decision to bar Zuma to stand for public office as a candidate for the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party because of his 15 month sentence to prison in 2021 after being found guilty of contempt of court.

South Africa’s constitution bars anyone sentenced to more than 12 months in jail from being a member of parliament.

The Electoral Court, however, concluded that Zuma’s 15-month sentence for contempt couldn’t be appealed and, thus, did not meet the criteria of a “sentence” under Section 47(1)(e) of the Constitution.

Zuma’s legal team contended that the IEC erred in ruling him ineligible for office, arguing his sentence reduction to three months and the civil nature of his conviction meant section 47 was inapplicable.

The ConCourt disagreed.

The court said, “This matter is about a narrow and defined legal issue that is capable of determination without an interpretation of the contempt judgment,” and “it is not for a court to limit the scope of the provision.”

Justice Leona Theron read the judgment, saying that “this court concludes that Mr Zuma was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months for the purposes of Section 47(1)(e) of the Constitution.”

Mr. Zuma “is accordingly not eligible to be a member of and not qualify to stand for election to the National Assembly until five years have elapsed since the completion of his sentence.”

Read: Politicians get R200 million boost from taxpayers ahead of elections

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter