Jacob Zuma life and biography

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Jacob Zuma biography

Date of birth : 1942-04-12
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Inkandla, South Africa
Nationality : South-African
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-20
Credited as : Politician and Member of the militant wing of the African National Congress (ANC), president of South Africa, South Africa leader

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Jacob Zuma, also known as: Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, Jacob G. Zuma, born April 12, 1942 in Inkandla, South Africa is a South African politician, civil rights activist and one of the current World's leaders - president of South Africa since 2009.

Jacob Zuma is a longtime member of the African National Congress (ANC) and the elected president of South Africa. Zuma was widely credited with averting civil war and helping ensure that democratic elections would be held following the collapse of white South African rule and the segregationist politics of apartheid in 1994. Because of his skills as a peacemaker, he often served as a mediator between the government and such groups as trade unions, other political parties, and traditional leaders. Beginning in 1999, Zuma served as deputy president during the administration of President Thabo Mbeki. However, in 2005 Zuma's political career was seriously threatened when he and his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, were embroiled in a bribery and weapons scandal. Fired by Mbeki over his role in the conspiracy, Zuma faced charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering, and even rape. Nevertheless, he remained an admired populist figure, and in December of 2007 was elected head of the ANC, defeating Mbeki for the position. Despite Zuma's legal troubles he was elected president in the spring of 2009. Addressing parliament as he took office, he said, "With the support of my organisation the ANC, as well as all South Africans, I hope to lead the country on a path of friendship, cooperation, harmony, unity, and faster change."

Received Little Formal Education

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was born April 12, 1942, in Inkandla, KwaZulu-Natal (then called Zululand). His name was created by his police officer father, from the sentence "Ngeke ngithule umuntu engigedla engihlekisa"--meaning, "I can't keep quiet when someone pretends to love me with a deceitful smile." Breaking the sentence in two, his father gave Zuma the name Gedleyihlekisa while his brother became Ngekengithule. His father died when Zuma was just four years old. This loss meant that his mother had to take on the role of breadwinner, and Zuma had to forego school to help support the family. The family moved closer to his mother's homeland, and Zuma got his first job as a cattle shepherd. "I used to look after them very well. That was the first time I was praised for a job well done," he told the Saturday Argus. When the family moved once again to a township just outside of Durban, his mother took a low-paying job as a domestic servant, and Zuma held a variety of odd jobs.

Despite not being able to attend school, Zuma had an insatiable appetite to learn. Each day he pestered young school-going friends and relatives to teach him what they had learned. Eventually he taught himself to read and write, a fact that he would later use as a politician to "encourage those whose circumstances also did not allow them to go to school," as he told Briefing. "Education is education whether it is formal or not." The bit of formal training he did have came when his cousin agreed to take Zuma to night classes in 1955. Still, his self-instruction helped him succeed: "I have done everything the educated have done," he told Briefing.

In 1958 Zuma turned his energies from education of the books-and-paper variety to a different kind of schooling--that of politics, resistance, and activism. At age seventeen he joined the ANC unbeknownst to most of his family members. This secrecy was necessary as the ANC as well as all other opposition groups had been banned by the government.

Arrested for Antiapartheid Activism

During the early 1960s, in reaction to increasing oppression by the apartheid system, the ANC--long committed to nonviolent resistance--created a militaristic wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Zuma became an active member in 1962. Just a year later he was arrested along with forty-five other recruits and convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government. He spent ten years in prison.

When Zuma was released in 1973 he married his longtime finaceƩ, Sizakele Khumalo, and returned to his ANC activism. He is widely credited with establishing the underground ANC infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal. In 1975 he was forced to flee South Africa and spent fifteen years of exile in many African countries including Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia. He continued working with the ANC and became a powerful figure in its activities. Among his inner circle of friends was fellow ANC leader and exile, the future South African president Thabo Mbeki. Zuma served in a number of high-ranking positions in the exiled ANC, including membership in the executive committee and chief of the intelligence department at ANC headquarters in Zambia. A follower of the Zulu polygamist tradition, Zuma married Nkosazana Dlamini while in exile. Although they later divorced, they would serve together in the post-apartheid government.

Back in South Africa, the political front was changing. The continued work of the ANC, as well as that of the Black Consciousness Movement and other opposition groups, was having the desired effect on the apartheid government. International opinion condemned South Africa's treatment of its majority population as inhumane, immoral, and shameful. International pressure led then-president F. W. de Klerk to lift the ban on opposition groups and release political prisoners, most notably Nelson Mandela, in 1990. Zuma was one of the first ANC leaders to return home.

Involved in Post-Apartheid Politics

In the years after his release and before the democratic elections that would make Mandela president, Zuma was instrumental in a number of political decisions. From negotiating the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles, to brokering peace in KwaZulu-Natal and promoting relations between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Zuma left a definitive mark on the burgeoning democracy. He developed a support base in KwaZulu-Natal and lived with his two wives in a traditional house according to Zulu custom.

In 1994 Mandela was elected president of South Africa. Zuma played a key role in this new political arena, both in the ANC and in KwaZulu-Natal politics. That year he was appointed national chairperson of the ANC, chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, and member of the executive committee of economic affairs and tourism for the KwaZulu-Natal. He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for the premiership of the KwaZulu-Natal region. Though he is widely credited for increasing the peace and stability of the region and for building stronger ties between the ANC and the IFP, he came under criticism for dividing his time between ANC party issues and KwaZulu-Natal practical issues. The Mail and Guardian commented, "[Zuma] is suited to either task, but not both."

Despite the competing nature of his positions, Zuma did not shirk from the task and was instrumental in averting a potential civil war. Zuma finally found some resolution of his dual roles when he was appointed deputy president of South Africa following the election of his old friend Thabo Mbeki to the presidency in 1999. Because of his experience in KwaZulu-Natal and his proven skills as a peacemaker, Zuma assumed the de facto role as governmental peace mediator.

Fought Allegations of Corruption and Rape

After serving in the Mbeki administration for five years, Zuma's dealings with his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, came under scrutiny in 2004. Shaik, a businessman with ties to the ANC, went on trial for bribing Zuma with $186,000 between 1995 and 2002. Shaik reportedly acted as a middleman between Zuma and a French weapons company, Thomson-CSF. The company paid $150,000 to Zuma as it sought a $69 million contract to supply the South African Navy with ships. Shaik also sought government help on other deals, and according to Michael Wines in the New York Times, "paid for everything from service on Mr. Zuma's Mercedes to Armani suits." Shaik was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. The justice in the case noted that Zuma and Shaik had a "generally corrupt" relationship.

President Mbeki fired Zuma over his alleged role in the bribery scandal after Zuma had refused to resign, sparking what Reuters called "some of the worst infighting in the ANC's history" due to Zuma's enduring popularity. Just a week later the South African National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that Zuma would be charged with corruption. Zuma insisted on his innocence, hinting that the charges resulted from a political conspiracy against him. Zuma made his way through a crowd of several hundred supporters when he appeared in court a week later; he was released on $150 bail. In August, Zuma's home was raided by the South African anti-corruption investigative team known as the Scorpions, causing Zuma supporters to question why investigations continued after he was formally charged. In October of that year, Zuma appeared in court for the beginning of his corruption trial, but it was again postponed.

A few weeks later, an HIV-positive woman, the daughter of a family friend, accused Zuma of raping her. He was formally charged with rape on December 6, 2005, and was released on $3,000 bail. Zuma protested his innocence, saying that the encounter was consensual. The case went to trial the following spring. Several hundred supporters had gathered outside the courthouse on May 8, 2006, when a judge found Zuma not guilty. The national executive of the ANC voted to reinstate him to his party duties after his acquittal.

Zuma next faced trial on the corruption charges. The trial was again postponed in July. When Zuma appeared on September 5, 2006, the prosecution asked for an additional delay to allow more time for investigation. Zuma's defense lawyers argued that the delays infringed on his right to a fair trial, and sought to have the case dropped. The corruption charges were thrown out after the judge in the case ruled that prosecutors could not have another extension to continue preparing their case. However, the judge ruled that the NPA might be able to have the charges reinstated at a later date.

Led ANC, Elected President

For a time free from legal proceedings, Zuma campaigned to become leader of the ANC. Supported by left-leaning ANC members and trade unions, he defeated Mbeki in the election in December of 2007. Two weeks later, prosecutors charged Zuma once again with corruption, fraud, money laundering, and racketeering. Some Zuma supporters accused Mbeki of being behind the indictment in retribution for the ANC election outcome. On January 8, 2008, the National Executive Committee of the ANC voted to continue its support of Zuma as the leader of the ANC and the party's next presidential candidate, despite the pending legal charges.

In September of 2008, a judge dismissed the pending charges against Zuma, arguing that there was reason to believe that the accusations against him were politically motivated. Cheering crowds welcomed the ruling. After the decision, political pressure mounted for Mbeki to resign. Within a week, the ANC forced Mbeki to resign as president and Mbeki supporters in key positions of power in the ANC to step down.

Prosecutors vowed to appeal the ruling that set aside the charges against Zuma, and on January 12, 2009, the South African Appeal Court overturned the judge's dismissal. However, Zuma refused to step down from the race. He told reporters, "I am not going to step aside simply because I have not been found guilty by any court of law. I respect the constitution and I understand it." Ultimately, the charges were dropped in early April by prosecutors who admitted that misconduct within their own department had tainted the case against Zuma. A few weeks later Zuma became the president-elect of South Africa when the ANC resoundingly won the general election with two-thirds (66%) of the vote.

As he took office in May of 2009, Zuma identified five areas of focus for his administration: education, health care, land reform, crime control, and employment. Saying that he was "humbled" to serve as president of South Africa, Zuma noted: "We made history in the world in 1994 when together we discarded our tragic past, and opted for a future of harmony, peace and stability. We elected our first President, our icon Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, whom we all love dearly. Madiba taught us the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation and humility. He made us walk tall and feel proud to be South Africans. As President of the Republic, I will do my best to lead the country towards the realisation of Madiba's vision of a truly non-sexist, non-racial South Africa, united in its diversity."

January 4, 2010: Zuma married Tobeka Madiba. She became the third woman to whom he is currently married; it was his fifth marriage overall.


Born Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma on April 12, 1942, in Inkandla, KwaZulu-Natal (then known as Zululand); married Sizakele Khumalo, 1973; married Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (divorced, 1998); married Kate Mantsho (died, 2000); married Nompumelelo Ntuli, 2008; married Thobeka Mabhija, 2009; fourteen children. Politics: African National Congress. Religion: Zulu traditional. Memberships: ANC, 1958--; Government Business in the National Assembly, head, 1997--; South African National Aids Council, chair; University of Zululand, chancellor; Jacob Zuma Bursary Fund, patron, 1998--; Peace and Reconstruction Foundation, patron; Albert Luthuli Education and Development Foundation, patron. Addresses: Office--Office of the President, Private Bag X1000, Union Buildings, Government Avenue, Pretoria 0001, South Africa.


Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership, 1998; honorary doctorates from University of Fort Hare, University of Zululand, and Medical University of Southern Africa, all 2001.


Member of the militant wing of the African National Congress (ANC), the Umkhonto we Sizwe, 1962-63; imprisoned for conspiring to overthrow the South African government, 1963-73; organized ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, 1973-75; exiled, 1975; ANC, national executive committee, 1977, chief representative in Mozambique, until 1984, political-military committee, mid-1980s, head of underground structures, late 1980s, intelligence department, chief, 1987, chairperson of the Southern Natal, executive committee of economic affairs and tourism in KwaZulu-Natal, 1994, national chair, 1994, deputy president 1997; deputy president of South Africa, 1999-2004; elected leader of the ANC, 2005-- president of South Africa, 2009--.

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