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Former president Jacob Zuma and leader of the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DARREN STEWART
Former president Jacob Zuma and leader of the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/DARREN STEWART

With the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) having already sent the ballot papers to the printers, former president Jacob Zuma’s face will — for now — be on the ballot next to the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party logo in the upcoming elections.

But it is unclear what will happen if, in the next two weeks, the Constitutional Court passes judgment that goes against Zuma and decides that he is not eligible to stand as a candidate to become an MP.

The IEC has brought an urgent application contesting Zuma’s eligibility. The apex court heard the application by the IEC on Friday to appeal against the electoral court’s ruling, which found that Zuma was eligible to be in parliament.

Judgment was reserved.

Section 47 of the Electoral Act prohibits anyone handed a 12-month or longer sentence from being a MP.

Whatever the outcome of the Constitutional Court case, the IEC said Zuma was the registered leader of the party and remained on the ballot as it stands.

South Africans will have to decide whether Zuma represents a vision for the country that they believe in. He is on record as saying he is contesting this year’s poll because he has “unfinished business”.

Zuma surprised some in December 2023 by declaring he would campaign for a new rival to the ANC.

Opinion polls suggest that MK will worsen the electoral woes of the governing ANC in Zuma’s heartland, KwaZulu-Natal, where ANC veterans campaigned at the weekend.

MK’s formation is linked to Zuma’s long-standing grievance against President Cyril Ramaphosa, who emerged as leader of the ANC after him. This came to a head after the arrest and incarceration of Zuma on July 7 2021 for refusing to account before the state capture inquiry. He defied the order of the Constitutional Court to do so and was sent to jail for 15 months, but was soon released on medical parole.

Analysts have said MK infighting would not hurt the party at the polls, because Zuma had captured the party and was running an “effective propaganda machine.”

Zuma expelled MK party founder Jabulani Khumalo last month, and in turn Khumalo has written to Zuma suspending him. But the IEC has confirmed that Zuma is the registered leader of the party and will remain on the ballot.

Tensions

“There are clear tensions between Khumalo and Zuma. What I know is that Zuma would not have come in and not been leader,” University of Johannesburg politics professor Mcebisi Ndletyana said.

“His character has been about defying rules, particularly because he lives through a personality cult and rules are an inconvenience. Things centre on him, because he is egocentric. He has to be at the centre. While MK is imploding that does not matter in terms of the election result. People are not voting for the party, they are voting for JZ.”

University of Pretoria professor Lucky Mathebula added that the ANC’s only hope of not having to turn to Zuma’s MK and Julius Malema’s EFF as coalition partners is the emergence of veterans in the governing party’s election campaign.

“The ANC veterans’ campaign is bringing Zuma’s peers to call his bluff. Because they are doing the work, if we do get to coalition talks, they [the veterans] have every right to have a seat at the table. Zuma has a good propaganda machine, so he is using everything to make headlines and that is the biggest part of MK’s campaign so far.”

omarjeeh@businesslive.co.za

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