Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former president, has been barred from seeking re-election in the country’s general election billed for May 29.

This was made known by the country’s electoral officials on Thursday even though no clear reason was given.

The election is expected to be the most competitive vote since the advent of democracy in 1994.

“In the case of former president Zuma, yes, we did receive an objection, which has been upheld,” said the electoral commission head, Mosotho Moepya.

Mr Moepya added that the party that nominated Mr Zuma for the election had been notified of the decision.

The development has further raised tension in the run-up to the polls.

He has until April 2 to appeal against the electoral body’s decision.

Mr Zuma, 81, served as the country’s president from 2009 until 2018, when he had to step down over allegations of corruption.

In 2021, the former South African head received a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court.

However, the country’s law states that anyone sentenced for longer than 12 months is not eligible to run for election.

Pundits have suggested that his 2021 conviction and jailing for contempt of court appear to be the reason for his disqualification from the exercise.

Many also believed that his backing of the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) party had been seen as a possible threat to the governing party, the African National Congress (ANC).

Mr Zuma’s new party had been named after the ANC’s former military wing, and he sees himself as the true heir to the ruling party’s revolutionary roots.

The party had wanted the country’s electoral body to deregister MK, but this request was rejected.

Already, the ANC is on the brink of dropping below 50 per cent of the vote for the first time since it came to power at the end of apartheid.

The party, which had been in power for three decades, is begging for support amid a weak economy and allegations of corruption.