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S.Africa's Zuma files appeal against exclusion from May vote

Published April 02,2024

South Africa's former president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday filed an appeal against a decision by electoral officials barring him from running in general elections as political tensions mount ahead of the May polls.

The electoral commission last week excluded the 81-year-old politician, who is campaigning for a new opposition party, over a 2021 contempt of court conviction.

But in court papers seen by AFP, lawyers for Zuma and the party argued that the sentence did not disqualify him.

The electoral commission "had no valid reasons to violate the political rights of President Zuma," the papers said.

"(Zuma) was not an accused, he was not charged of an offence by a criminal court, he was not involved in any criminal trial proceedings".

Zuma was sentenced to 15 months in jail in June 2021 after refusing to testify to a panel probing financial corruption and cronyism under his presidency.

The electoral commission said that under the constitution "any person who was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine" cannot stand in an election.

South Africa is to hold general elections on May 29 in what is expected to be the most competitive vote since the advent of democracy in 1994.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is expected to drop below 50 percent of the vote for the first time since it came to power at the end of apartheid, amid a weak economy and allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Zuma has been campaigning for the opposition uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party in an attempt to relaunch his career, calling members of his former party, the ANC, "traitors".

The fourth president of democratic South Africa from 2009 to 2018, Zuma has long been bitter about the way he was forced out of office under the cloud of corruption allegations but still wields political clout.