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Electoral Court rules that Zuma is eligible to stand for elections. This is why

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The Electoral Court has provided reasons for former president Jacob Zuma to stand as an election candidate despite his conviction and sentence by the apex court.

The Electoral Court has given reasons on its ruling that former president Jacob Zuma can contest the elections. File picture: Itumeleng English, Independent Newspapers

THE ELECTORAL Court has provided reasons for former president Jacob Zuma to stand as a candidate despite his conviction and sentence by the apex court.

The Electoral Court stated that Zuma was eligible to stand as a member of Parliament because he could not appeal the judgment of the Constitutional Court, which sentenced him to 15 months in prison.

Zuma served his sentence at the Estcourt Correctional Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.

The reasons from the Electoral Court come after the Constitutional Court granted Zuma and the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) Party an extension to file their answering papers regarding the appeal by the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) on the same matter.

The IEC appealed the decision of the electoral court to the highest court in the land after it said it wanted clarity on the interpretation of section 47 of the Constitution.

On Friday, the Electoral Court said Zuma was eligible to stand as a candidate in the elections because he could not appeal the sentence of the Constitutional Court.

“In terms of section 47(1)(e), a person who is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment without an option of a fine is not eligible to be a member of National Assembly. The disqualification does not operate immediately. If there is an appeal against the conviction and/or sentence a nominated candidate remains eligible to be a member of the National Assembly pending the final determination of the appeal. In the event that the nominated candidate loses the appeal or elects to not appeal the conviction and/or sentence, the disqualification kicks in and he or she becomes ineligible to be a member of the National Assembly,” read the court judgment.

The court said the Constitution spelled it out that a convicted person has a right to appeal.

The conviction and sentence do not come into effect until all appeal processes have been finalised.

It said the sentence imposed by the apex court on Zuma could not be taken as a sentence as he could not appeal it.

The court said the IEC erred by removing Zuma from the ballot paper.

“In other words, the conviction and sentence do not take effect until the appeal process has taken place, alternatively a convicted and sentenced person has elected to not appeal the conviction and/or sentence. In my view, the sentence that was imposed on Zuma cannot be said to be a sentence which the section contemplates. The commission erred therefore to uphold an objection to Zuma’s candidacy on the basis that the sentence that was imposed on him disqualified him from being eligible to be a member of National Assembly.”

Zuma has been campaigning for the MK Party for the last few months and the party has been involved in legal disputes with the IEC and the ANC.

The Constitutional Court is expected to hear the appeal lodged by the IEC on Zuma’s inclusion on the list of the MK Party.

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