SOWETAN | Court rulingboost for MK party but...

MK Party leader Jacob Zuma.
MK Party leader Jacob Zuma.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The Electoral Court yesterday set aside a decision by the IEC to bar former president Jacob Zuma from standing for election in the upcoming general poll. 

The IEC had upheld an objection to Zuma’s candidacy, on the basis that the law prohibits from parliamentary election those who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to more than 12 months in prison without the option of a fine. 

Zuma was convicted of contempt of the country’s apex court and sentenced to 15 months in prison.  

On Monday, his legal team argued that the remission of that sentence to three months, granted by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year, ought to denounce the severity of the original sentence, thus removing any legal barrier for him to stand for election. 

The IEC’s legal team, however, argued that such a remission was a decision by the president which, by its nature, is about the practical sustainability of the incarceration of an offender rather than a legal departure from the severity of his criminal liability as ordered by the a court. 

Furthermore, they argued – correctly – that the intention by the drafters of the constitution to place certain legal barriers on the eligibility of one’s candidacy for election was precisely to ensure that serious law breakers cannot be lawmakers. 

The court is yet to give its reasons for its order. For now we do not know which of the number of arguments placed before it the judges agreed with. 

Only when its reasons are released will the public gain insight into the court’s interpretation of the relevant laws. 

The matter has captured public imagination, partly because of how this order will shape our interpretation of  relevant sections of electoral law in the future. 

Overwhelmingly, the public interest is because of the immediate political implications of the court’s decision in the run-up to the election. 

The order will no doubt bolster the MK party's campaign momentum. 

With no such intention, it is also likely to fuel the party’s false claim that Zuma’s candidacy was barred because of a political conspiracy involving the IEC. 

We must continue to reject this narrative. 

It is, as has been in the last two decades, an attempt to position Zuma as a victim of powerful detractors rather than a man duly held accountable for his actions. 

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