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Wednesday, 15 May 2024 15:57

IEC defends Janet Love's remarks in response to ConCourt over Zuma's candidacy.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) has defended the remarks made by commissioner Janet Love relating to Umkhonto weSizwe party (MKP) leader Jacob Zuma's candidacy.

The IEC is embroiled in a legal battle with the uMkhonto weSizwe Party over Zuma's candidacy before the Constitutional Court.

While the judgment regarding the IEC's leave to appeal application was reserved by the ConCourt on Friday, the apex court has sought further clarity on alleged biased comments made by Love.

During a media briefing in January, Love stated that the Constitution disqualified any candidate with a criminal record from serving in the National Assembly in a response to a question about Zuma's eligibility.

"We are obliged as the commission to abide by the laws of this country and our Constitution itself prescribes who is possible to be eligible as a candidate on the lists of any political party.

That excludes anybody who has been given a sentence that was not the subject of any deferral and in that sense, it is not ourselves, but the laws of the country that would stand as an impediment for that candidacy," Love said at the time.

According to the MK party, Love's remarks were "premature and unwarranted" because the IEC had not yet opened the window period for the public to lodge objections regarding the candidates' lists submitted by political parties.

In essence, Constitutional Court is asking the litigants if a statement by Love in January that Zuma's criminal record "may impede his candidacy" for parliament in the May elections marred a subsequent decision by the commission that he was ineligible.

"Having not refrained from expressing a view about Zuma's eligibility, ought she to have recused herself from participating in the electoral commission's determination of his eligibility?" the court said.

It then asked whether she ought to have recused herself, what the effect of her not having done so was on the commission's decision, and if this impaired the legal validity of the commission's decision whether the court could still deliver a finding on that decision.

"If commissioner Love's participation vitiated the determination by the electoral commission of Zuma's eligibility, is it open to this court to substitute the determination by the Electoral Commission?"

The court last Friday heard an urgent appeal by the IEC to a ruling last month by the electoral court overturning its decision to disqualify Zuma.

The electoral commission upheld objections to his candidacy filed on the basis that his 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court barred him from becoming an MP in terms sections 47(1)(e) of the Constitution.

The IEC has since submitted its written responses to the ConCourt after the litigants were asked to make submissions about Love's alleged bias by 5pm on Tuesday.

In their papers, the commission argued that Love’s comments were not specific to Zuma.

The IEC dismissed the suggestion that the commissioner prejudged the former president, focusing on the phrase saying "it is not ourselves, but the laws of the country that would stand as an impediment for that candidacy".

"This is the clearest indication that no pre-judging was made," the commission said.

"The reasonable, objective and informed person would not interpret the phrase ‘that candidacy’ as a reference to Zuma.

"Instead, the reasonable, objective and informed person would interpret it in line with its grammatical meaning: 'that candidacy' refers to the generic 'anybody 'in the very first line of Love's response," the IEC argued.

The commission stressed that it was bound by the law and the Constitution in terms of who was eligible to run for political office.