South African Court Rejects Zuma Bid to Stop Parliament Sitting

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa’s top court dismissed an application by a party led by former President Jacob Zuma to stop parliament from convening on Friday on the grounds that it would not be improperly constituted.

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Zuma’s uMkhonto weSizwe Party, which won 14.6% of the vote in May 29 elections, argued the vote was rigged and that its challenge to the outcome must run its course before the National Assembly meets to elect a new speaker and the nation’s president.

“The application must fail on the merits,” the Constitutional Court said in a ruling handed down on Wednesday. “The applicant has not made out a case for the granting of an interim interdict as it has neither shown that it will suffer irreparable harm if the interdict is not granted.”

The MKP, as the party is known, hasn’t substantiated its claim of rigging or approached the Electoral Court, which adjudicates in election-related disputes.

Zuma led South Africa for almost nine scandal-marred years before the ruling African National Congress forced him from office. The party suspended him from its ranks last year after he said he’d campaign for the MKP.

The election failed to produce an outright winner, meaning the ANC will have to partner with one or more rivals if it wants to retain power.

The MKP, which won 58 of the 400 seats in the National Assembly, said it will only partner with the ANC if it replaces President Cyril Ramaphosa, a demand that was flatly refused. It has threatened to boycott parliamentary proceedings pending the outcome of its dispute with the electoral body.

Zuma, who was fired as deputy president in 2005 amid corruption allegations, won control of the ANC in 2007 and led the party until 2017, when Ramaphosa replaced him and then succeeded him as the nation’s president in 2018.

Since then, Zuma has been fighting a legal battle against charges of taking bribes to facilitate an arms deal in the 1990s and served time in jail after refusing to testify before a judicial inquiry into state graft.

Zuma’s imprisonment in 2021 triggered the worst riots in South Africa since the end of apartheid, leaving 354 people dead. Much of the violence took place in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma’s home province and the second-most populous in the country.

His MKP won 45.4% of the ballot in KwaZulu-Natal, while the ANC’s support plunged to 17% from 54.2% in 2019. The Inkatha Freedom Party got the fifth-most votes nationally and was second in KwaZulu-Natal with 18.1%.

It’s unlikely that the province will experience a repeat of the riots of 2021 given the Constitutional Court’s ruling, IFP leader Velinkosini Hlabisa said Thursday.

“I don’t think so, but I cannot also say it will not explode,” he said on Talk Radio 702. Zuma “is a seasoned politician who knows the difficult times of violence in our country and who played a major role in ending violence and under his watch, I don’t think he will allow our country to deteriorate.”

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(Updates with comment by IFP leader from penultimate paragraph.)

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