Zuma’s chances of becoming SA’s president again seem to be dwindling

Former president Jacob Zuma canvassing for votes for the newly-formed uMkhonto weSizwe party. Picture: @DZumaSambudla/X

Former president Jacob Zuma canvassing for votes for the newly-formed uMkhonto weSizwe party. Picture: @DZumaSambudla/X

Published Jan 10, 2024


Durban — The wish by uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party supporters that former president Jacob Zuma returns to the Union Buildings to lead the country again, will not be realised since the constitution may not allow him.

This was the view of the constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos who told the Daily News on Tuesday that despite that he did not believe that the MK party would get enough votes to win the elections for Zuma to become president, another reason could be that the constitution would not allow him back into Union Buildings.

De Vos said what complicated matters was that Zuma did not finish his second term as he left government in 2018 just before his term ended in 2019. He said although the constitution was clear that South African presidents serve only two terms, it was silent on what happens when the president does not finish the second term, adding that the “reasonable understanding of silence rule was NO”.

“It will be difficult to give a straight answer to this question because while the constitution clearly states that if one takes over the presidency before the other one’s term expires those years would not be counted as a term of the new one, but silent on what happens if the president does not finish the second term.

“It will be the Constitutional Court that will have to clarify the matter but the understanding was that silence means no which could mean Zuma can not be president again in South Africa,” De Vos said.

MK supporters were reportedly lobbying Zuma to be the presidential candidate for the upcoming elections as he proved to be still popular among the people given the trends on social media platforms since he publicly endorsed the MK party.

He added that the party was formed with his knowledge and blessing and he will vote for it. It was believed that the reason why they opted for Zuma besides his popularity was that former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng had turned down the offer to become its presidential candidate.

The former Chief Justice also turned down the offer by the All African Alliance Movement which, according to the party founder Archbishop Nchime Tsekedi, he had initially agreed to.

On Monday the MK party president Jabulani Khumalo denied having approached Mogoeng for the presidential candidate’s position. He also poured water on Zuma becoming the face of the election campaign, saying the party would pronounce on the candidate once the election date has been declared.

MK supporters were also said to be wrongly comparing Brazil’s constitutional situation with that of South Africa, with former Brazilian president Lula Da Silva returning to the presidency last year. Although the Brazilian president may also only serve two terms, the former president is allowed to return provided a full term after leaving office has lapsed.

Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe differed with De Vos, arguing that the constitution’s silence on the matter may not mean no.

He also differed with De Vos on defining a second term, saying that when the constitution talks about two terms it means two terms consecutively and it cannot be said that Zuma served two terms because he did not finish the second term.

Seepe further stated that Zuma does not need to be the country’s president again to implement the MK party agenda, saying he could do that while outside government.

An independent analyst Thobani Zikalala concurred with de Vos in saying that Zuma could not return to parliament because of the constitution since it did not mention that a former may come back even if they did not finish their terms.

Zikalala said Zuma resigned himself before he could finish his terms so the Constitutional Court may deem him as having finished his term.

However, Zikalala agreed with Seepe in saying that Zuma did not need to go to parliament to achieve the MK party agenda because he could make sure that all the deployed members of the party to the government implement party programmes.

MK’s comments will be added once received.

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