SOWETAN | ConCourt clarity on Zuma vital

ANC former president Jacob Zuma.
ANC former president Jacob Zuma.

Deputy chief justice Mandisa Maya aptly captured SA’s anticipation for the electoral court to release its reasons to allow former president Jacob Zuma to stand for parliamentary election despite his criminal record. 

“I can tell you that the country is waiting with bated breath for those reasons,” she told judge Seena Yacoob during the latter’s Judicial Services Commission interview for a permanent post at the electoral court.

Yacoob was one of the judges who set aside the IEC’s decision to bar Zuma from contesting. The order was made last week but the court is yet to release its reasons. 

The delay, while neither unreasonable nor unusual, has led to an unintended information vacuum about a matter so important and highly political. 

Such a vacuum has so far been filled by speculation, some of which is unfounded and perpetuates disinformation about the credibility of the IEC as an institution of democracy. 

Last week, the IEC announced that it would approach the Constitutional Court to appeal the order and seek clarity on the interpretation of Section 47(1)e of the constitution. 

Predictably, this decision has further added to unfounded criticism that the IEC is politically motivated. There are no reasonable grounds to doubt the IEC’s rationale on this. 

The institution decided to bar Zuma on the basis of its interpretation of the law which prohibits those who are convicted of a crime and sentenced to 12 months in prison from standing for election. 

Following the electoral court's order, the IEC therefore has the responsibility to seek constitutional clarity on how to interpret the relevant sections of the law. 

Furthermore, while it is reasonable to expect the IEC to wait for the reasons before approaching the apex court, its decision not to wait suggests its fundamental disagreement with the electoral court’s interpretation as well as the urgency with which it believes the matter ought to be clarified before the May 29 election. 

Contrary to the discourse by Zuma’s supporters, the IEC’s decision is not about his rights or his politics for that matter. It is about understanding the correct application of the law, both in his case as well as many other candidates about which it would need to correctly apply the rules. 

Whatever the Constitutional Court decides on this matter can only enrich our understanding of the law and importantly, strengthen our democratic processes. 

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