Constitutional Court Reserves Judgment On Zuma’s Eligibility For Parliament

On the other hand, Zuma's counsel, Advocate Dali Mpofu SC, argued that the IEC had no authority to invoke Section 47 in this matter.

Constitutional Court Reserves Judgment On Zuma’s Eligibility For Parliament - The Times Post
Constitutional Court Reserves Judgment On Zuma’s Eligibility For Parliament.

The Constitutional Court of South Africa has recently reserved its judgment on a crucial matter concerning the eligibility of former President Jacob Zuma to serve in the National Assembly.

A bench of nine justices deliberated upon this complex question during hearings that concluded on Friday. The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) approached the apex court to challenge Zuma’s fitness to be a member of parliament following the elections.

Last month, the Electoral Court ruled that Zuma would appear on the ballot for the provincial and national elections scheduled for May 29.

[ WATCH LIVE | ConCourt Hears Zuma’s Eligibility To Run For Public Office ]

This decision was based on the fact that Zuma could not appeal the judgment of the Constitutional Court, which had previously sentenced him to jail. In 2021, the Constitutional Court convicted Zuma of contempt of court.

It sentenced him to 15 months in prison without the option of a fine, due to allegations of state capture, corruption, and fraud in the public sector.

Zuma served an effective three months of his 15-month prison sentence and was released on medical parole on September 5, 2021, by the National Commissioner of Correctional Services.

However, on November 21, 2022, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that this process had been unlawful and ordered Zuma to return to prison. The former president returned to prison on August 11.

On the same day, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola granted him and over 9,000 other prisoners a special remission of sentence due to prison overcrowding.

During the hearings, the arguments presented by Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi on behalf of the IEC highlighted that the Electoral Court’s ruling was incorrect, hence the appeal.

Ngcukaitobi also pointed out that the court made a mistake in assuming that the remission would alter Zuma’s sentence. He urged the court to urgently rule on their appeal before the elections, as there might not be enough time to address it afterwards.

Ngcukaitobi emphasized that, according to Section 47, Zuma is not eligible to be a member of parliament.

This section states that “anyone who, after this section took effect, is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine, either in the republic, or outside the republic if the conduct constituting the offence would have been an offence in the republic, but no one may be regarded as having been sentenced until an appeal against the conviction or sentence has been determined, or until the time for an appeal has expired.”

Several organizations, including the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, expressed their support for the IEC’s appeal and presented their arguments before the court. On the other hand, Zuma’s counsel, Advocate Dali Mpofu SC, argued that the IEC had no authority to invoke Section 47 in this matter.

Mpofu questioned the source of the IEC’s power to disqualify someone from parliament using Section 47 and stated that Zuma’s serving in parliament was not urgent and should perhaps have been taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). Mpofu argued that due to the remission, Zuma could serve in the National Assembly.

It is worth noting that on May 8, the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) party submitted its list of candidates for the National Assembly in the upcoming election to the IEC.

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