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The Supreme Court excludes former President Zuma from the elections in South Africa

South Africa’s highest court ruled on Monday that former President Jacob Zuma cannot stand as a candidate in next week’s general election, on the grounds that a 2021 conviction for contempt of court has disqualified him.

The Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma’s prison sentence of more than 12 months had made him ineligible to serve in office.

His former party, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), suspended 82-year-old Zuma in January. He has since founded a new party, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), and planned to chair the party in the May 29 elections.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling overturns an earlier ruling by a lower court that allowed Zuma to stand for election.

The elections are seen as the most important since freedom fighter and later president Nelson Mandela led the country to democracy in 1994. Polls show the ANC could lose its absolute majority for the first time and be forced to find a coalition partner.

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According to the constitution, the president is appointed by parliament and not directly elected.

Zuma was president from 2009 to 2018 and was forced out of office due to corruption. In 2021, he was given a 15-month prison sentence after refusing to give evidence while in office before a committee investigating nepotism and corruption.

His arrest sparked riots in which about 350 people were killed and hundreds of businesses were looted and bombed.

Zuma spent less than eight weeks in prison before being released due to ill health.

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