Politics Editors Choice

MK Party: IEC 'lacks power' to block Zuma's bid for return to parliament

MK Party is taking the IEC to court after former president Jacob Zuma was barred from contesting for a seat in parliament.
MK Party is taking the IEC to court after former president Jacob Zuma was barred from contesting for a seat in parliament.

MK Party believes the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) had no business upholding constitutional provisions blocking former president Jacob Zuma's nomination to stand for parliament due to a previous jail sentence.

The party stated this in court papers filed on Tuesday to the electoral court. It is challenging the commission's decision to not allow Zuma to contest for a seat in parliament in this year's elections. The legal showdown was prompted by the party's selection of Zuma as its presidential candidate.

Zuma was in June 2021 sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment by the Constitutional Court for contempt of court. The constitution prohibits anyone who has been sentenced to more than 12 months' imprisonment without the option of a fine from becoming an MP.

The party argues the commission lacks power to take such a decision. 

“The IEC lacks the power, jurisdiction and/or authority to implement section 47(1)(e) of the constitution which deals with regulating membership of the National Assembly. That power resides with the National Assembly itself. The authority of the IEC is limited to the question of qualification to stand as a candidate in an election,” the court papers read.

The party accused the commission of being biased in barring Zuma, but it said there was no evidence of this.

“The entire commission was disqualified from taking the decision. The issue of bias, it needs to be emphasised that the IEC is not being accused of actual bias since there is no evidence thereof. The MK Party has been advised that such serious allegations should not be lightly made without any substantiation. The MK Party accordingly only relies on a reasonable apprehension of bias and/or conflict of interest, which are sufficient grounds to invalidate the impugned decision.”

Last week, the commission confirmed it received 82 objections in relation to candidates nominated by 21 political parties.

Commission chairperson Mosotho Moepya said the electoral court has until April 9 to decide on appeals as the commission plans to publish lists of political parties and candidates who will appear on the ballot papers on April 10.

Moepya said in taking decisions on the objections the commission was guided by the constitution.

“Section 47 and 106 of the constitution set out the eligibility criteria and qualification for the National Assembly and provincial legislature respectively. They provide that every citizen who is qualified to vote for the National Assembly and/or provincial legislature is eligible to stand for election except:

“Anyone who has been declared to be of unsound mind by a court of the republic; unrehabilitated insolvents; any person who was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months’ imprisonment without the option of a fine. This disqualification ends five years after the sentence has been completed. This ground of disqualification does not extend to persons who are yet to be sentenced and those, while sentenced are yet to exhaust appeal mechanisms available to them.”

Media Briefing on Commission Decisions On Objections To Candidate Lists For 2024 NPE

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