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Former South African President Jacob Zuma has been banned from running in the country’s upcoming election due to his previous criminal conviction. 

Jacob Zuma, former South African President, has been barred from running in the upcoming election due to a prior criminal conviction.

The highest court in South Africa, the Constitutional Court, issued a ban against Jacob Zuma on Monday.

Zuma, who stepped down as president in 2018 amid corruption allegations, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2021 for contempt of court. The Constitutional Court cited a section of the constitution that disqualifies individuals who have been sentenced to more than 12 months in prison without the option of a fine from standing for office.

Judges said he would only be able to serve as an MP five years after his sentence had been completed.

The ruling comes just two days after Zuma launched the manifesto of his new political party, uMkhonto We Sizwe (MK), in front of more than 30,000 supporters at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto – the heartland of his former party, the African National Congress (ANC).

“We will take control,” said MK Party spokesperson Nhlamulo Ndhlela, trying to reassure Zuma loyalists who have been following the party for him alone. “President Zuma does not have to be the president, he is still the brains behind any president that will be deployed.”

The ANC is struggling to hold on to its parliamentary majority, and MK threatens to split the vote in the upcoming election. Zuma’s influence over his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, the largest voting bloc, could be lessened by the ruling.

Zuma is still facing a corruption trial scheduled for April 2025, and his popularity among his supporters could be key if MK is to make any meaningful strides towards power. With the prestige of a parliamentary seat now out of reach, Zuma and his party will need to appeal the court’s ruling – or appeal to his fan base to maintain their negotiating power with the ruling ANC.

“We will take it from here,” said Ndhlela, “We will make sure that the legacy of President Zuma continues.”

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