The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has rejected objections to President Jacob Zuma's candidacy for Parliament, saying there was no evidence that Zuma didn't meet the requirements to be a member of Parliament.
The IEC told at least two organisations that had objected to Zuma's name appearing on the ANC's national list that their objection did not qualify as valid in terms of the electoral act and sections 47 and 106 of the South African Constitution.
"You did not submit any proof or evidence to show that the candidate you object against was convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months' imprisonment without the option of a fine thus disqualifying him from standing as a candidate," wrote IEC chairperson Pansy Tlakula.
Section 47 states that: "Every citizen who is qualified to vote for the National Assembly is eligible to be a member of the Assembly, except … unrehabilitated insolvents; anyone declared to be of unsound mind by a court of the Republic; or anyone who, after this section took effect, is convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months' imprisonment without the option of a fine."
The Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa (IFAISA) lodged an official objection to Zuma's candidacy with the IEC last month. "We don't know of a precedent where the presidential candidate was objected to," the institute's director Paul Hoffman told the Mail & Guardian at the time. "We are venturing into unchartered territory."
In an email addressed to the IEC, the institute objected to the ANC selecting Zuma as the party's number one candidate for the May 7 general elections.
The grounds for the objection are set out in the open letter, which was sent to the secretary general of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, on March 27 and called for the ruling party to "walk the walk" on anti-corruption and recall Zuma as the party's presidential candidate.
The institute said Zuma was unfit to be the country's leader based on the public protector's findings that he had unduly benefitted from work done at his private residence in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal. It said Zuma's appointment as president, given the current circumstances, is "indistinguishably irrational".
On Tuesday, Hoffman said he was not surprised by the IEC's ruling as it might be the correct ruling for now. "A more meaningful objection would be to his presidency when he is nominated in that first sitting of the National Assembly after the elections – a sitting presided over by the chief justice.
"If someone objects to president Zuma's nomination because of his compromised position, it's up to the chief justice to look at the issue. "It would be irrational to put a thief forward to be in charge of a constitutional democracy," said Hoffman.
Agricultural organisation TAU SA, which also objected to Zuma's candidacy, said it was disappointed by the IEC ruling. It questioned the IEC's independence. Bennie van Zyl, TAU-SA's general manager, said he was concerned with the IEC, saying they had not provided any proof that "Zuma stole money, when there's a court ruling that he did". "The Independent Electoral Commission is not so independent if you can get that kind of ruling."
Van Zyl said it was unlikely that they would pursue the matter but the organisation's executive committee would make that call on Thursday morning. "It's up to South Africans now … black and white South Africans who are not happy with this man," he added.
In its submission, the organisation had argued that an MP has to be free of any involvement of corruption or misappropriation of state funds to be considered for a position.
"He [Zuma] has been recently implicated in a report of the public protector regarding possible irregular expenses on his Nkandla homestead, and the fact that he could have misled Parliament on this issue," said TAU SA.
The IEC revealed last week that it had received in excess of 40 submissions regarding objections to candidates of political parties for the elections. On Tuesday afternoon, the IEC could not give the M&G the details of the objections, saying it was still busy compiling the relevant information.
Interested parties have until April 10 to appeal the IEC decisions regarding their objections.