Jacob Zuma attacks South African judges after electoral ban

Image source, fake images

Screenshot, Zuma took over the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party after ousting its founding leader, Jabulani Khumalo.

  • Author, Anne Soy
  • Role, BBC News, Durban

Former South African president Jacob Zuma launched a scathing attack on some of the country’s top judges after he was banned from running for parliament on Monday.

In his first interview since the ban, Zuma told the BBC that the Constitutional Court was wrong to decide he was unfit to run, based on his 2021 conviction for contempt of court.

“I expected that from our judges, but they are definitely wrong. It’s not right,” the 82-year-old said, adding that the Constitution should be changed.

Ahead of next week’s general election, Zuma had been campaigning under the banner of the newly formed uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party.

He joined the party after falling out with the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which he used to lead.

The electoral commission argued that the Constitution prohibits anyone sentenced to more than 12 months in prison from serving as a legislator, an opinion supported by the judges of the Constitutional Court.

Zuma was convicted in 2021 for refusing to testify in a corruption investigation during his presidency.

His lawyers had insisted he had the right to become an MP as his sentence was reduced to three months after current President Cyril Ramaphosa released him from prison in what was widely seen as an attempt to placate angry supporters of the former president.

“The judges of the Constitutional Court have behaved very strangely towards me, in particular towards me,” Zuma told the BBC.

“They do not take into account the will of the people of this country, they use their own will.”

He was president from 2009 to 2018 before being forced to resign as ANC leader amid accusations of widespread corruption in his government.

Corruption, widely known as “state capture,” caused hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets to pass into private hands. Zuma has always denied any direct involvement in corruption, but he is due to face trial next year on bribery allegations.

He told the BBC he had been unfairly stripped of his role as ANC leader.

“I don’t know what ‘state capture’ means. If people say I’m corrupt, what did I do? Do you have any information about it? I’m guilty?

“I was removed before the end of my term and nothing was presented as evidence that this was a problem.”

Zuma’s MK party had previously expressed a desire to change South Africa’s constitution, which was drafted 30 years ago at the birth of the country’s democracy after decades of white minority rule.

When asked about this in light of his electoral ban, Zuma reiterated that the historic document needed to be changed.

“This constitution on the African continent is governed by the laws of Europe, not ours,” he said.

“There is nothing that has gone right on this continent because we are still dominated by those who were the ones who enslaved us, and after slavery, they oppressed us, and after oppression, they put their own laws in place to govern us.

“There are details that collide with our lives.”

An Ipsos opinion poll published last month gave MK 8% of the vote and the ANC 40%, as it loses support to MK and other opposition parties.

But some analysts suggest that with the ruling party intensifying its campaign in recent weeks, it could still cross the 50% mark. But if the ANC wins less than half the votes, it would lose its majority for the first time in 30 years.

MK is expected to do especially well in Zuma’s home region of KwaZulu-Natal.

After Zuma was jailed for contempt of court in 2021, his angry supporters sparked days of deadly riots. More than 300 people died in the clashes.

On Wednesday, Zuma said this violence demonstrated the extent of public support for him.

“This should tell you that the masses of this country love Zuma – that’s why we had him,” he said.

When asked by the BBC if he would use this interview to call for peace and calm ahead of next week’s elections, Zuma replied: “I always have.”

Image source, Getty Images/BBC

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