The Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa (IFAISA) lodged an official objection to President Jacob Zuma’s candidacy for the presidency with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Sunday.
“We don’t know of a precedent where the presidential candidate was objected to,” the institute’s director Paul Hoffman told the Mail & Guardian. “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”.
“We would urge you and your colleagues on the national executive committee (NEC) of the ANC to reconsider the implications of persisting with JZ [Jacob Zuma] as your presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections and to give serious attention to recalling him as presidential candidate if he does not opt to voluntarily resign,” the institute said in the letter.
The IFAISA requested Mantashe to respond to the letter after the ANC’s NEC meeting over the weekend. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the NEC meeting on Saturday in Cape Town, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said the findings of the Nkandla report would be on the agenda.
ANC yet to respond
In lodging its objection with the IEC, the institute said: “This objection is lodged ex abundanti cautela [from excessive caution] as the ANC is still considering the attached letter and has not yet responded substantively to it.”
ANC NEC member Lindiwe Zulu said she was not aware of the letter or the objection lodged with the IEC.
“When they sent it [the letter] on Thursday we were busy with the NEC meeting, we were all in Cape Town. There is nothing we can say about it until we hear from the person they have addressed it to. I can’t respond to something we have not seen.”
Zulu said she will likely see the letter on Monday morning during a briefing.
Hofmann said he was hoping the ANC would do the right thing.
He said their objection is that Zuma is compromised and conflicted and cannot be a candidate for the presidency when there are a number of criminal charges laid against him.
The institute as well as the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters laid criminal charges against following the report’s release.
‘Alive to possibility’
“Jacob Zuma is eligible to be on the list, our complaint is he shouldn’t be number one on the list.”
Technically speaking, Hoffman said, Zuma is eligible to be a member of Parliament because he has never been found guilty of any crime or sentences, nor is he insolvent or insane.
The IEC’s deadline to object to a candidate is Tuesday 1 April. The commission will rule on objections on Monday 7 April.
Hoffman said he was “alive to the possibility” that the matter may be something which can be dealt with after the elections.
“It may be argued that the appropriate forum in which to object to the presidential candidacy of Jacob Zuma, as the ANC’s number one candidate, is the electoral college presided over by the chief justice [or another judge designated by him], which is constitutionally convened at the first meeting of the newly elected National Assembly,” He said.
When the chief justice adjudicates on any objection, which is lodged in the forum over which he presides, he may wish to be informed as to whether an objection was lodged with the IEC in relation to the place given to Zuma on the ANC list of candidates.
“This is that objection,” Hoffman said.
The institute has requested the IEC for copies, should it rule on the objection. It has also asked for detailed reasons in the case a commissioner recuses himself or herself from the adjudication.
IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela said she could only confirm on Monday as to whether the commission had indeed received the complaint. Bapela did not respond to further questions about whether other objections against Zuma’s candidacy had been received.