|4th President of South Africa|
9 May 2009
|Deputy||Kgalema Motlanthe (2009–2014)
Cyril Ramaphosa (2014–present)
|Preceded by||Kgalema Motlanthe|
|President of the African National Congress|
18 December 2007
|Deputy||Kgalema Motlanthe (2007–2012)
Cyril Ramaphosa (2012–present)
|Preceded by||Thabo Mbeki|
|Deputy President of South Africa|
14 June 1999 – 14 June 2005
|Preceded by||Thabo Mbeki|
|Succeeded by||Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka|
|Born||Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma
12 April 1942
Nkandla, Natal, South Africa
|Political party||African National Congress|
|Spouse(s)||Gertrude Sizakele Khumalo (1973–present)
Kate Mantsho (1976–2000)
Nkosazana Dlamini (1982–1998)
Nompumelelo Ntuli (2008–present)
Thobeka Mabhija (2010–present)
Gloria Bongekile Ngema (2012–present)
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma,[needs IPA] GCB (born 12 April 1942) is the President of South Africa, elected by parliament following his party's victory in the 2009 general election. He was re-elected in the 2014 election.
Zuma is the President of the African National Congress (ANC), the governing political party, and was Deputy President of South Africa from 1999-2005. Zuma is also referred to by his initials JZ and his clan name Msholozi. Zuma became the President of the ANC on 18 December 2007 after defeating incumbent Thabo Mbeki at the ANC conference in Polokwane. He was re-elected as ANC leader at the ANC conference in Mangaung on 18 December 2012, defeating challenger Kgalema Motlanthe by a large majority. Zuma was also a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), briefly serving on the party's Politburo until he left the party in 1990. On 20 September 2008, Thabo Mbeki announced his resignation after being recalled by the African National Congress's National Executive Committee. The recall came after South African High Court Judge Christopher Nicholson ruled that Mbeki had improperly interfered with the operations of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for corruption.
Zuma has faced significant legal challenges. He was charged with rape in 2005, but was acquitted. He fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik's conviction for corruption and fraud. On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges, citing political interference, although the decision was successfully challenged by opposition parties, and the charges are now before the NPA for reconsideration. After extensive state-funded upgrades to his rural homestead at Nkandla, the Public Protector found that Zuma had benefited improperly from the expenditure, and the Constitutional Court unanimously held in 2016's Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker of the National Assembly that Zuma had failed to uphold the country's constitution, resulting in calls for his resignation and a failed impeachment attempt in the National Assembly.
Zuma was born in Nkandla, Natal Province (now part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal). His father was a policeman who died when Zuma was young, and his mother was a domestic worker. He received no formal schooling. As a child, Zuma constantly moved around Natal Province and the suburbs of Durban in the area of Umkhumbane (near Chesterville). He has two brothers, Michael and Joseph.
Zuma began engaging in politics at an early age and joined the African National Congress in 1959. He became an active member of Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1962, following the South African government's ban of the ANC in 1961. Zuma joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1963. That year, he was arrested with a group of 45 recruits near Zeerust in the western Transvaal, currently part of the North West Province. Convicted of conspiring to overthrow the Apartheid government, a government led by the white minority, Zuma was sentenced to ten years imprisonment, which he served on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and other notable ANC leaders also imprisoned during this time. Whilst imprisoned, Zuma served as a referee for prisoners' association football games, organised by the prisoners' own governing body, Makana F.A.
After his release from prison, Zuma was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in the Natal province. During this time Zuma joined the African National Congress' Department of Intelligence where he later became the departments Head of Intelligence.
Zuma became a member of the ANC National Executive Committee in 1977. He also served as Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC in Mozambique, a post he occupied until the signing of the Nkomati Accord between the Mozambican and South African governments in 1984. After signing the Accord, he was appointed as Chief Representative of the ANC.
He served on the ANC's political and military council when it was formed in the mid-1980s, and was elected to the politburo of the SACP in April 1989.
In December 1986, the South African government requested Mozambican authorities expel six senior members of the ANC including himself. As a result of the pressure applied by the apartheid government on Mozambique, in January 1987, Zuma was forced to leave Mozambique. He moved to the ANC Head Office in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was appointed Head of Underground Structures and shortly thereafter Chief of the Intelligence Department.
Following the end of the ban on the ANC in February 1990, Zuma was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa to begin the process of negotiations.
In 1990, he was elected Chairperson of the ANC for the Southern Natal region, and took a leading role in fighting political violence in the region between members of the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). He was elected the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC the next year, and in January 1994, he was nominated as the ANC candidate for the Premiership of KwaZulu Natal.
The IFP, led by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, put particular emphasis on Zulu pride and political power during this period. In this context, Zuma's Zulu heritage made his role especially important in the ANC's efforts to end the violence, to emphasise the political (rather than tribal) roots of the violence, and to win the support of Zulu people in the region.
After the 1994 general election, with the ANC becoming a governing party but having lost KwaZulu-Natal province to the IFP, he was appointed as Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) of Economic Affairs and Tourism for the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, after stepping aside to allow Thabo Mbeki to run unopposed for deputy presidency. In December 1994, he was elected National Chairperson of the ANC and chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, and was re-elected to the latter position in 1996. He was elected Deputy President of the ANC at the National Conference held at Mafikeng in December 1997 and consequently appointed executive Deputy President of South Africa in June 1999.
During this time, he also worked in Kampala, Uganda, as facilitator of the Burundi peace process, along with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. Museveni chairs the Great Lakes Regional Initiative, a grouping of regional presidents overseeing the peace process in Burundi, where several armed Hutu groups took up arms in 1993 against a government and army dominated by the Tutsi minority that they claimed had assassinated the first president elected from the Hutu majority.
Zuma became embroiled in a corruption controversy, one of many, after his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, was charged with corruption and fraud. Bulelani Ngcuka, the national director of Public Prosecutions at the time, investigated both Zuma and the Chief Whip of the ANC, Tony Yengeni, after allegations of abuse of power were levelled against them. This concerned improper influence in the controversial arms deal, and the question of financial benefit as a result of such influence. While Yengeni was found guilty, the case was dropped against Zuma, with Ngcuka stating, "...that there was prima facie evidence of corruption, but insufficient to win the case in court". Ngcuka moved to private practice after criticism from the ANC over this incident.
In 2004, Zuma became a key figure mentioned in the Schabir Shaik trial. Schabir Shaik, a Durban businessman and his financial advisor, was questioned over bribery in the course of the purchase of Valour class frigates for the South African Navy, a proposed waterfront development in Durban, and lavish spending on Zuma's residence in Nkandla. In the trial Shaik was shown to have solicited a bribe of R500 000 per annum for Zuma in return for Zuma's support for the defence contractor Thomson CSF, documented in the infamous "encrypted fax". On 2 June 2005, Shaik was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Judge Hilary Squires elaborates in detail on the numerous transactions that transpired between Zuma and Shaik, summarising with "all the accused companies were used at one time or another to pay sums of money to Jacob Zuma". The media mis-quoted Squires with the phrase "A generally corrupt relationship" (existed between Zuma and Shaik), whereas these exact words do not appear in the court transcripts. To the defence of the originators of this phrase, the full transcript of the judgment against Shaik actually does mention Zuma 471 times, uses word "corrupt" or "corruption" 54 times, and contains 12 sentences with both the word "corrupt" and the name "Zuma". Media sources later switched to the phrase "mutually beneficial symbiosis", from the judgment's paragraph 235: "It would be flying in the face of commonsense and ordinary human nature to think that he did not realise the advantages to him of continuing to enjoy Zuma's goodwill to an even greater extent than before 1997; and even if nothing was ever said between them to establish the mutually beneficial symbiosis that the evidence shows existed, the circumstances of the commencement and the sustained continuation thereafter of these payments, can only have generated a sense of obligation in the recipient."
After twelve days of intense media speculation about his future, President Thabo Mbeki relieved Zuma of his duties as deputy president on 14 June 2005. Mbeki told a joint sitting of parliament that "in the interest of the honourable Deputy President, the government, our young democratic system and our country, it would be best to release the honourable Jacob Zuma from his responsibilities as Deputy President of the republic and member of the cabinet." Zuma then resigned as a member of parliament.
In the aftermath of the Shaik trial, Zuma was formally charged with corruption by the National Prosecuting Authority. The case was struck from the roll of the Pietermaritzburg High Court after the prosecution's application for a postponement (petitioned in order to allow the NPA to secure admissible forms of documentation required as evidence) was dismissed. In dismissing the application for postponement the Court rendered moot the defence's application for a permanent stay of proceedings which would prevent Zuma from being criminally prosecuted.
Zuma's legal team continued to delay proceedings and in spite of Zuma's claim that he desired the matter to appear in court, succeeded in making critical evidence unavailable to the court resulting in the prosecution making an application for postponement on the set date. As the prosecution was not ready the case was struck from the roll after the prosecution's application for a postponement was dismissed, however Zuma's legal team was unsuccessful in its attempts to have the courts grant a permanent stay of proceedings (which would have rendered Zuma immune to prosecution on the charges). This left Zuma open to being recharged with corruption as soon as the NPA completed preparing its case.
On 8 November 2007 the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the National Prosecuting Authority with respect to appeals relating to various search and seizure exercises performed by them and rejected four appeals made by Zuma's defence team. This ruling pertained to the National Prosecuting Authority obtaining the personal diary of senior member of a French arms company, which may have provided information relating to Zuma's possible corrupt practices during the awarding of an arms deal.
On 28 December 2007, the Scorpions served Zuma an indictment to stand trial in the High Court on various counts of racketeering, money laundering, corruption and fraud. A conviction and sentence to a term of imprisonment of more than 1-year would have rendered Zuma ineligible for election to the South African Parliament and consequently he would not have been eligible to serve as President of South Africa.
Zuma appeared in court on 4 August 2008. On 12 September 2008, Pietermaritzburg Judge Chris Nicholson held that Zuma's corruption charges were unlawful on procedural grounds in that the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions ("NDPP") did not give Zuma a chance to make representations before deciding to charge him (this is a requirement of the South Africa Constitution), and directed the state to pay legal costs. Nicholson also added, however that he believed political interference played a very large role in the decision to recharge Zuma, although he did not say this was the reason why he held that the charges brought against Zuma were unlawful, though it was implied. Nicholson also stressed that his ruling did not relate to Zuma's guilt or innocence, but was merely on a procedural point. Various media reports had incorrectly reported that the charges against Zuma had been dismissed. This was not the case. It remained competent for the NDPP to recharge Zuma, however, only once he had been given an opportunity to make representations to the NDPP in respect of the NDPP's decision to do so. In paragraph 47 of the Judgment, Judge Nicholson wrote,
The obligation to hear representations forms part of the audi alteram partem principle. What is required is that a person who may be adversely affected by a decision be given an opportunity to make representations with a view to procuring a favourable result. The affected person should usually be informed of the gist or the substance of the case, which he is to answer.
The Court held that the NDPP's failure to follow the procedure outlined in Section 179(5)(d) of the Constitution rendered the decision by the NDPP to recharge Zuma unlawful. Judge Nicholson found that there were various inferences to be drawn from the timing of the charges levelled against Zuma (such as the fact that he was charged soon after he was elected president of the ANC) which would warrant a conclusion that there had been a degree of political interference by the Executive arm of government. Judge Nicholson writes in paragraph 210 of his judgement,
The timing of the indictment [of Zuma] by Mr Mpshe on 28 December 2007, after the President suffered a political defeat at Polokwane was most unfortunate. This factor, together with the suspension of Mr Pikoli, who was supposed to be independent and immune from executive interference, persuade me that the most plausible inference is that the baleful political influence was continuing.
In paragraph 220 of the Judgement Judge Nicholson went on to write,
There is a distressing pattern in the behaviour which I have set out above indicative of political interference, pressure or influence. It commences with the "political leadership" given by Minister Maduna to Mr Ngcuka, when he declined to prosecute the applicant, to his communications and meetings with Thint representatives and the other matters to which I have alluded. Given the rules of evidence the court is forced to accept the inference which is the least favourable to the party's cause who had peculiar knowledge of the true facts. It is certainly more egregious than the "hint or suggestion" of political interference referred to in the Yengeni matter. It is a matter of grave concern that this process has taken place in the new South Africa given the ravages it caused under the Apartheid order.
Prior to the hearing there had been a spate of criticism of the South African Judiciary by Zuma supporters, amongst whom were some prominent legal minds, such as Paul Ngobeni In that context, the irony was that this was the third time the South African Judiciary had found in his favour, including Zuma's acquittal of the rape charge brought against him. The NDPP soon announced its intention to appeal the decision.
It was improper for the court to make such far-reaching "vexatious, scandalous and prejudicial" findings concerning me, to be judged and condemned on the basis of the findings in the Zuma matter. The interests of justice, in my respectful submission would demand that the matter be rectified. These adverse findings have led to my being recalled by my political party, the ANC – a request I have acceded to as a committed and loyal member of the ANC for the past 52 years. I fear that if not rectified, I might suffer further prejudice.
The judgement for the appeal was handed down on 12 January 2009 at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. Deputy Judge President Louis Harms had to rule on two aspects of the appeal. The first aspect was whether or not Zuma had the right to be invited to make representations to the NPA before they decided to reinstate charges of bribery and corruption against him. The second aspect was whether Judge Nicholson was correct in implying political meddling by the then President Thabo Mbeki with regards to the NPA's decision to charge Zuma.
On the question of the NPA's obligation to invite representations when reviewing decisions, Harms DP found that Nicholson's interpretation of section 179 of the Constitution was incorrect in that the NPA did not have such an obligation and thus was free to have charged Zuma as it did. On the question of Nicholson's inferences of political meddling by Mbeki, Harms DP found that the lower court "overstepped the limits of its authority".
On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) dropped all charges against Zuma, as well as co-accused French arms company Thint, in light of new revelations about serious flaws in the prosecution. The revelations were in the form of intercepted phone calls showing that the head of the Scorpions, Leonard McCarthy, and the former National Director of Public Prosecutions, Bulelani Ngcuka, had conspired over the timing of the charges laid against Zuma, presumably to the political advantage of Zuma's political rival, President Thabo Mbeki. The announcement of the withdrawal of charges was made by the acting head of the NPA, Mokothedi Mpshe, who however stressed that the withdrawal was due to abuse which left the legal process "tainted", and did not amount to an acquittal.
Just before the NPA's announcement, however, at least two political parties intimated that they would consider legal action of their own should the charges be dropped. The Democratic Alliance subsequently filed for a judicial review of the NPA's decision, with party leader Helen Zille stating that Mpshe had "not taken a decision based in law, but [instead had] buckled to political pressure". The case was set to be heard on 9 June 2009. Whilst Zuma filed his responses timeously, Mpshe delayed the hearing of the matter, requesting two extensions to file the NPA's response. NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said he could not file papers because there were "outstanding matters" to be resolved. Zille, the Democratic Alliance's party head contended that Zuma's response was fundamentally wrong and "devoid of any constitutional basis". Whilst the legal challenges continued, a survey showed that, as at June 2009, more than half of South Africans believed President Jacob Zuma was doing a good job. The poll, conducted by TNS Research Studies in the last half of June 2009, revealed that Zuma's approval ratings had steadily improved. Around 57% of the people polled said they thought Zuma was a capable leader – this was up 3% from April 2009 when the president was inaugurated. In November 2008, just months after former president Thabo Mbeki was recalled and when Zuma was facing graft charges, only 36% of South Africans were positive about him.
On Friday 29 April 2016, The High Court in Pretoria has said the decision taken by former NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe to drop corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma in 2009 was irrational. Judge Aubrey Ledwaba found three contradictions in Mr Mpshe's affidavits explaining his decision to withdraw the charges against President Zuma. Mr Mpshe should have followed the legal processes on emergence of the "spy tapes" and allow the courts to decide if the charges should have been withdrawn. He acted "alone and impulsively", and therefore his decision was "irrational". The decision from 2009 has been set aside. The NPA and its head Shaun Abrahams must now decide if it will recharge President Jacob Zuma with the original 783 counts of corruption. 
While serving as deputy president, Zuma enjoyed considerable support in parts of the left wing of the ANC, including many in the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). While Zuma faced corruption charges, these organisations remained supportive of him. The influence of the semi-autonomous structures within the party helped Zuma retain support even as he was removed from the deputy presidency of the country.
Zuma's dismissal was interpreted in two ways. Many international observers hailed it as a clear sign that the South African government was dedicated to rooting out corruption within its own ranks. On the other hand, some within South Africa focused on the fact that Zuma and Mbeki represent different constituencies within the African National Congress. Some left-wing supporters claimed that Mbeki and his more market-oriented wing of the party had conspired to oust Zuma to entrench their dominance in the ANC.
Zuma's cause rallied large crowds of supporters at each of his corruption-related court appearances in 2005. At one court date, Zuma supporters burned T-shirts with Mbeki's picture on them, which earned the condemnation of the ANC; Zuma and his allies urged a return to party discipline for subsequent gatherings. At the next court date in November, Zuma supporters numbering in the thousands gathered to support him; he addressed the Durban crowd in Zulu, urging party unity and singing the apartheid-era struggle song Lethu Mshini Wami with lyrics that translate literally as "bring me my machine" but understood to refer to a machine gun. At an October tour for the ANC Youth League elsewhere in the country, Zuma also earned the cheers of large crowds. While his political strength is at least partly based on his relationships within intra-party politics, one analyst argued that his supporters' loyalty could be explained as rooted in a Zulu approach to loyalty and mutual aid.
Because of his support among elements of the party, Zuma remained a powerful political figure, retaining a high position in the ANC even after his dismissal as the country's deputy president. A panel of political analysts convened in November 2005 agreed that if he was to be found innocent of the corruption charges brought against him, it would be hard for any other potential ANC candidate to beat Zuma in the race for the country's presidency in 2009. However, these analysts also questioned whether Zuma was indeed a left-wing candidate of the sort that many of his supporters seem to seek, and noted that the global and national economic constraints that have shaped Mbeki's presidency would be no different in the next presidential term.
In December 2005, Zuma was charged with raping a 31-year-old woman at his home in Forest Town, Gauteng. The alleged victim was from a prominent ANC family, the daughter of a deceased struggle comrade of Zuma, and also an AIDS activist who was known to be HIV-positive. Zuma denied the charges and claimed that the sex was consensual.
Even before charges were filed, as rumours about rape accusations surfaced later in November, Zuma's political prospects began to appear to take a turn for the worse. Most of his higher-level political supporters could not respond to these new charges the way they had the corruption charges. In a hearing prior to the rape trial, a group of thousands of his supporters gathered near the courthouse, as a smaller gathering of anti-rape groups demonstrated on behalf of the alleged rape victim. As he did throughout the trial, Zuma sang Lethu Mshini Wami (Bring me my machine gun) with the crowd, and ANC Youth League and Communist Party Youth League spokesmen spoke in support of Zuma.
As the rape trial proceeded, reports surfaced that the South African Communist Party was severely divided over how to address the issue of Zuma and the SACP's relationship to him. Many members of the party's youth wing supported Zuma while others in the SACP were sceptical about the value of rallying behind a particular person as opposed to emphasizing principles of governance.
Despite the defection of some former supporters, many Zuma supporters continued to rally outside the courthouse, arousing criticism by anti-rape groups for regular attacks on the integrity and moral standing of Zuma's accuser, insults yelled at a close friend of the accuser, and even stones thrown at a woman that members of the crowd mistook for the accuser. Zuma's defence team introduced evidence relating to the woman's sexual past, and asserted that the sex that took place was consensual. The prosecution asserted that her lack of resistance was due to a state of shock, and that the relationship between the two was like that of a 'father-daughter' pair.
The trial also generated political controversy when Zuma, who at the time headed the National AIDS Council, admitted that he had not used a condom when having sex with the woman who now accuses him of rape, despite knowing that she was HIV-positive. He stated in court that he took a shower afterwards to "cut the risk of contracting HIV". This statement was condemned by the judge, health experts, and AIDS activists. The popular South African comic strip, Madam & Eve, and well known political cartoonist, Zapiro, repeatedly lampooned the matter. HIV educators emphasised that this would do nothing to prevent HIV transmission.
On 8 May 2006, the court found Zuma not guilty of rape, agreeing with Zuma that the sexual act in question was consensual. Judge van der Merwe lambasted the accuser for lying to the court, but also censured Zuma for his recklessness.
As his rape trial ended, many South Africans wondered how their political system would recover from the rifts that Zuma's trials have exposed. A Mail & Guardian analysis saw these events as especially troubling:
The political damage is incalculable, with the ruling African National Congress now an openly divided and faltering movement. This has had a domino effect on the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which have floundered and fractured in the face of damaging charges against a man they ardently backed as the country's next president.
The trial has been fought against the backdrop of a bitter succession war between Mbeki and Zuma... Mbeki's support in the ANC has crumbled, with the party faithful refusing to accept that he will anoint a leader... But even Zuma's most diehard supporters privately acknowledge that he cannot now be president, regardless of the trial outcome.
Nonetheless, Business Day's Karima Brown told The Guardian after the rape trial's verdict was handed down:
Jacob Zuma is back. This poses a serious dilemma for the ANC leadership. Now Zuma is marching back into Luthuli House [the ANC party HQ]. He will demand to be reinstated as deputy president and the others will find it difficult to block him … This is a major victory for Zuma's political career.
The prospect of Zuma's return as a contender for the presidency caused concern for international investors. An Independent analyst suggested, "The fear of seeing Zuma and his crowd marching to the Union Buildings wielding machine guns is unnerving mostly to the middle class and businessmen, according to recent surveys."
As a backlash to the frenzied media following his rape trial, Zuma filed a series of defamation lawsuits on 30 June 2006 against various South African media outlets for publishing content that allegedly besmirched his public profile, in the form of cartoons, commentary, photos and parody pieces. The media outlets that came under fire were The Star for R 20 million, Rapport for R 10 million, Highveld Stereo for R 6 million, The Citizen for R 5 million, Sunday Sun for R 5 million, Sunday Independent for R 5 million, and Sunday World for R 5 million.
Zuma appointed Former Conservative Party MP advocate Jurg Prinsloo, as well as Wycliffe Mothuloe to tackle his so-called "crucifixion by the media". Zuma said:
For a period of five years my person has been subjected to all types of allegations and innuendo, paraded through the media and other corridors of influence without these allegations having being [sic] tested. I have thereby been denied my constitutional right to reply and defend myself.
On 14 June 2005, President Thabo Mbeki removed Zuma from his post as Deputy President due to allegations of corruption and fraud related to the $5-billion weapons acquisition deal by the South African government in 1999. Zuma's successor as Deputy President of South Africa was Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the wife of Bulelani Ngcuka. Mlambo-Ngcuka had been Minister of Minerals and Energy since 1999. While her appointment was widely welcomed by the business community, she was booed publicly at many ANC rallies by Zuma supporters between the time corruption charges had been filed but before rape charges were made, with the first booing taking place in Utrecht.
In terms of party tradition, as the deputy president of the ANC, Zuma was already in line to succeed Mbeki. The party structures held their nominations conferences in October and November 2007, where Zuma appeared favourite for the post of ANC President, and, by implication, the President of South Africa in 2009. With then-incumbent ANC- and South African President Thabo Mbeki as his opposition, Zuma was elected President of the ANC on 18 December 2007 with 2329 votes, beating Mbeki's 1505 votes. Mbeki had sought a third term as ANC president, though the South African Constitution would not have allowed him a third term as President of South Africa.
In September 2008, the breakdown in the relationship between the ruling ANC and its presidential appointee, Thabo Mbeki, reached a tipping point, with the ANC NEC's decision that Mbeki was no longer fit to govern South Africa. Mbeki elected not to challenge this decision and resigned as President of South Africa. The ANC announced that the party's deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, would become president until 2009 general elections, after which it was intended that Zuma would become president. Zuma declared that he would prefer to only serve one term as president.
The ANC won the national election on 6 May 2009 and Zuma was sworn in as President of South Africa on 9 May 2009.
In March 2009, Schabir Shaik was released from prison just 28 months into his fifteen-year sentence. He had been granted medical parole, a leniency meant only for the terminally ill, despite the opinion of his doctors that he was fighting fit and free for hospital discharge.
Media speculation had it that Zuma may have played a role in this eventuality, but the ANC President's spokesman firmly denied it. Only days before, however, he had publicly stated that, as President of South Africa, he would personally ensure Shaik's release.
Zuma officially announced the death of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president, in a press conference on December 5, 2013. Zuma was booed and heckled by the crowd at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Al Jazeera reported that "for many South Africans, Zuma represents some of the nation's least appealing qualities. They consider their deeply flawed president and faltering government and mutter dark thoughts about a failing state and a banana republic."
On 6 August 2009, Zuma nominated Sandile Ngcobo as Chief Justice of South Africa, drawing criticism from four opposition groups. On 1 October 2009, the appointment was confirmed. The Democratic Alliance, the Congress of the People, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the Independent Democrats accused Zuma of failing to consult properly ahead of his nomination of Ngcobo. The opposition urged Zuma to restart the process from scratch saying they would prefer current Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke for the post.
As President of South Africa, Zuma was required to declare his financial interests within 60 days of taking office. But, as of March 2010, he had failed to do so, nine months after taking office. This led to calls for him to do so by opposition parties, and ANC alliance partner COSATU. ANC spokesman, Brian Sokutu, stated that Zuma constituted a "special case", because of his "large family" making it difficult to declare his assets. The ANC later distanced itself from this statement. Zuma disclosed his interests shortly after.
On January 18, 2014, it was reported that Zuma would be the sole candidate for the ANC in the upcoming national election. It was reported that, in spite of speculation to the contrary, because of the controversies surrounding him, the ANC was "united behind Zuma" and would not field another candidate for the presidency in the upcoming national election. ANC Deputy Secretary General Jesse Duarte stated "The policy is that the president of the ANC is always the candidate for the election. We don't have another candidate and there will be no other candidate. Let us be clear."
On January 26, 2014, it was reported that at least four of the 11 ANC regional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal had confirmed the existence of a "resolution" taken to approach Zuma to ask him not to run for a second term as the country's president. The resolution had reportedly gained momentum in November 2013 when the ANC was preparing for the national list conference, however, it "lost traction" after the death of Nelson Mandela.
Zuma has described himself as a socialist and became president with the support of a left-wing coalition of trade unions and the South African Communist Party, as well as the ANC Women's League and the ANC Youth League. However, The Guardian (UK) has also reported that Zuma has tried "to reassure foreign investors their interests will be protected."
The African National Congress, of which Zuma is now president, historically has considered the ZANU-PF party a natural ally, born out of mutual struggle against white minority rule. Former South African president Thabo Mbeki has never publicly criticised Mugabe's policies – preferring "quiet diplomacy" rather than "megaphone diplomacy", his term for the harsh Western condemnations of Mugabe's leadership. However, the left of the party and extra-party organisations such as the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have advocated for a tougher stance on Zimbabwe. It is from these organisations that Zuma derives his support.
Zuma's stance on Zimbabwe has been mixed. In a 2006 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, he expressed more sympathetic sentiments towards Mugabe, saying that "Europeans often ignore the fact that Mugabe is very popular among Africans. In their eyes, he has given blacks their country back after centuries of colonialism." He continued: "The people love him, so how can we condemn him? Many in Africa believe that there is a racist aspect to European and American criticism of Mugabe. Millions of blacks died in Angola, the Republic of Congo and Rwanda. A few whites lost their lives in Zimbabwe, unfortunately, and already the West is bent out of shape."
However, by December 2007, he was more forthright in criticising Zimbabwe's leadership, increasingly defining his own policy in contrast to that of Mbeki:
It is even more tragic that other world leaders who witness repression pretend it is not happening, or is exaggerated. When history eventually deals with the dictators, those who stood by and watched should also bear the consequences. A shameful quality of the modern world is to turn away from injustice and ignore the hardships of others.
Following the disputed elections in Zimbabwe on 29 March 2008, he became critical of the election process in Zimbabwe referring to delays in the outcome as "suspicious". In a press conference on 24 June, he asserted: "We cannot agree with ZANU-PF. We cannot agree with them on values. We fought for the right of people to vote, we fought for democracy." At an ANC dinner in July, he rebuked Mugabe for refusing to step down.
After Zuma became president, his private home at Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal was substantially upgraded by the state. In November 2013 opposition parties accused Zuma of having used taxpayer funds not only for security improvements, but also private additions and improvements to his home. Zuma answered in parliament that he was unaware of the scale of the work, but agreed to two investigations, one to probe its rising costs, and another to determine any breaches of parliamentary spending rules. The Public Protector's report "Secure in Comfort" found that Zuma and his family had benefited improperly from the upgrades, that a swimming pool (claimed to be a "fire pool"), amphitheatre, cattle kraal and chicken run were not security features, and that Zuma had violated the executive ethics code and had not asked "questions regarding the scale, cost and affordability of the Nkandla project." After rival reports by the police's Special Investigative Unit and a parliamentary ad hoc committee attempted to exonerate Zuma, opposition parties went to the Constitutional Court to establish whether the Public Protector's report was binding. Shortly before the Constitutional Court hearing in February 2016, Zuma's attorneys recognised that the Public Protector's findings were binding and said that Zuma was ready to pay back part of the cost of the upgrade. On 31 March 2016, the Constitutional Court delivered a unanimous judgement in Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker of the National Assembly and Others stating that the Public Protector's report was binding and that Zuma and the National Assembly had failed to uphold the country's constitution. The court ordered National Treasury to determine the amount that Zuma must pay back and ordered Zuma to do so within 45 days of the court's approval of the National Treasury report.
In the immediate wake of the judgment, Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane, the leaders of the two victorious applicants in the case, called for Zuma to step down. However, Zuma sought to downplay the judgment. In a press statement the following evening, he said he welcomed the judgment and had always accepted the Public Protector's reports were binding, and noted that the Court found he had been entitled to institute a parallel investigative process and had acted "honestly" and "in good faith". Legal commentators condemned these claims as serious misrepresentations of the judgment. They pointed out that it could not possibly have been the case, as Zuma claimed, that he was merely adopting the High Court's approach to the powers of the Public Protector in its DA v SABC judgment, because that was handed down six weeks after Zuma signaled his intention not to comply with her report. Commentators also condemned the Presidency's statement that the Court had never found Zuma breached his office, since that was the judgment's unmistakable implication.
But the ANC continued to support Zuma. The ANC Women's League had released a statement hours after the judgment saying its faith in Zuma "remains unshaken". Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe, speaking on behalf of the so-called Top Six, said he "welcomed" Zuma's apologetic statement but that calls for his impeachment were "over-exaggerated". Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu and Deputy Minister of Justice John Jeffery took the view that, although Zuma had breached the Constitution, the breach was not "serious". The impeachment bid by opposition MPs on 5 April 2016 failed by over 120 votes. Some were surprised that even Zuma's opponents within the ANC like Cyril Ramaphosa and Pravin Gordhan had voted against the motion. The Congress of the People, an opposition party, said it would boycott parliamentary proceedings in light of the National Assembly's failure to implement the Court's judgment.
Nevertheless, many analysts said the judgment might prove a fatal blow to Zuma, although factional battles within the ANC would be the ultimate decider. One suggested that powerful ANC members had lost faith in Zuma and might move to oust him at a more opportune moment. The South African Communist Party, part of Zuma's own Tripartite Alliance, had been skeptical about the adequacy of his response to the judgment. Some ANC members booed Zuma at his next subsequent appearance. And several prominent members of civil society and former ANC insiders, including Ahmed Kathrada, Ronnie Kasrils, Trevor Manuel, Cheryl Carolus, and retired Constitutional Court judge Zak Yacoob, called for Zuma's resignation, prompting a backlash from certain Zuma allies. The South African Council of Churches did the same, saying Zuma had "lost all moral authority". The Gauteng ANC, led by noted Zuma critic Paul Mashatile, formally resolved that Zuma must resign; doubts were raised about Zuma's leadership even within his traditional strongholds like the ANC's Limpopo branches; and an internal ANC memorandum sent by party veterans to the Top Six allegedly demanded Zuma's recall and compared him to detested apartheid-era President P. W. Botha. Finally, members of the Gupta family, thought to be Zuma's long-standing allies and crucial financial backers, resigned from their major holding company and fled South Africa for Dubai in the week after the judgment – leaving Zuma, in the opinion of some analysts, extremely vulnerable. In the wake of these developments, Malema said it was now time to "crush the head of the snake". On 12 April 2016, Max du Preez said the key question, "now that the balance of power has turned irrevocably against Zuma", was how to ensure he makes a managed – and non-violent – exit.
Zuma's close and allegedly corrupt relationship with the Gupta family has been a major source of discontent within both his own party – the ANC – and the South African public. The portmanteau "Zupta," a combination of "Z" from "Zuma" and the "upta" from "Gupta," was first coined by the Economic Freedom Fighters at the 2016 South African presidential state of the nation address when they disrupted the event by repeatedly chanting "Zupta must fall" to express their dissatisfaction with this relationship.
South African Opposition parties have made claims of "State Capture" following allegations that the Guptas, said to be close to President Jacob Zuma, his family and other ANC leaders, was offering Cabinet positions and influencing the running of government. These allegations were made in light of revelations by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and former MP Vytjie Mentor that they had been offered Cabinet positions by the Guptas at the family's home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
On 9 December 2015, President Jacob Zuma issued a statement replacing Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene with the little known David van Rooyen. It was widely suspected that Nene was replaced for reasons all related to him vetoing suspect and/or controversial uses of public funds including the vetoing of South African Airways (SAA) chairperson Dudu Myeni's attempt to purchase 5 Airbus A330s through an unnamed third party, not approving a proposed SAA direct flight route between Sudan and South Africa, Nene's resistance to approving funding for a nuclear deal with Russia, not approving the purchase of a new R4 billion Boeing 787 presidential plane, and the downgrading of South Africa's credit rating to just above 'junk' status by international rating agencies.
Strong links between both of Van Rooyen's top two advisers and the Gupta family came to light a few months later, prompting concerns that Nene's firing was an attempt at state capture by political and business associates of the Zuma family.
The dismissal of Nene caused a public outcry and a strongly negative reaction by international markets causing the South African Rand to lose 10% of its value and the withdrawal of an estimated R180 billion from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in the two days following the announcement. In addition to the public and opposition political parties the business community, COSATU and other trade unions, the Communist Party of South Africa, as well as many within the ruling ANC called for Zuma to reverse the decision. Four days after the announcement on the 13 December a senior ANC delegation met with Zuma and told him to reinstate Nene or appoint former minister of finance Pravin Gordhan. A few hours later Zuma announced that van Rooyen would be replaced by the better known and trusted Pravin Gordhan. This event is thought to have increased the rift between Zuma and the rest of the ANC including Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, something that Ramaphosa denies. Ranjeni Munusamy of The Daily Maverick stated that this has exposed President Zuma as a "weak leader who acted recklessly without proper advice" indicating that the firing of Nene has greatly damaged Zuma's political standing.
In the early hours of 31 March 2017, the Presidency announced a major cabinet reshuffle in which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas were dismissed, with Malusi Gigaba appointed as the new Finance Minister. The reshuffle affected 10 cabinet ministers, 5 of whom were dismissed, and 10 deputy ministers. The reshuffle was strongly criticised by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and other senior ANC and SACP leaders, and led to increased calls for Zuma to resign, including opposition calls for a motion of no confidence and impeachment. The SACP's Second Deputy General Secretary Solly Afrika Mapaila indicated that ANC members of Parliament should themselves raise the prospect of a vote of no confidence in the President. Shortly after the removal of Pravin Gordhan, ratings agency Standard and Poor's downgraded South Africa's sovereign debt to BB+, commonly known as junk status. Partly in response to the dismissal of the Gordhan marches and protests were held on 7 April 2017 in South Africa's major cities with a total of 60,000 protesters taking part. The largest of the protests occurred in Cape Town with an estimated 12,000 to 80,000 participants and Pretoria with an estimated 25,000 joining protests at the Union Buildings.
Since 2015, Jacob Zuma has been understood to favour his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him both as President of the African National Congress and as President of South Africa, in order that he remains in control of the ANC and the state through her, and so he can avoid prosecution for still pending criminal charges.
Zuma was criticised by gay and lesbian groups after he criticised same-sex marriage at a Heritage Day celebration on 24 September 2006 in Stanger, saying that same-sex marriage was "a disgrace to the nation and to God": "When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would knock him out."
The Joint Working Group (an LGBT advocacy coalition) questioned Zuma's leadership skills and stated that a "true leader leads with intellect and wisdom – not popularity or favour. How can a narrow-minded person like this be expected to lead our nation?" Zuma subsequently apologised to those who were offended by the statement, stating, "I also respect, acknowledge and applaud the sterling contribution of many gay and lesbian compatriots in the struggle that brought about our freedom, and the role they continue to play in the building of a successful non-racial, non-discriminatory South Africa."
Zuma's solution to pregnancy in South African teenagers is to confiscate their babies and have the mothers taken to colleges and "forced" to obtain degrees and also to make sure that the condoms are available in diverse institutions.
Zuma also drew censure from religious and secular groups alike when he declared that the ANC would rule South Africa until the return of Jesus Christ, and that its continued governance was just what God wanted:
God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed. It is even blessed in Heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back. We should not allow anyone to govern our city when we are ruling the country.
Zuma later defended his remarks by describing them as a "political expression": "Talking about Jesus is not abusing his name; it's actually saying historically, 'This is what the ANC is all about.' It's just a political expression that we are strong and will be strong for a long time. I want to apologise if this reality sits uncomfortably with others." He added that he had been baptised and knew Jesus: "I fear God.... [I]t's not because I'm despising God, not at all."
Not long before the NPA dropped its corruption case against him, Zuma met with controversy once again. Speaking at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, whose Afrikaans community he was addressing (not, he claimed, for electioneering purposes), Zuma said,
Of all the white groups that are in South Africa, it is only the Afrikaners that are truly South Africans in the true sense of the word. Up to this day, they don't carry two passports; they carry one. They are here to stay.
Addressing the matter of apartheid, Zuma employed wry humour in praising ironically the "innovative" Afrikaner approach to protests, which couched its crimes in terms like "separate development". He also confronted the matter of police corruption, declaring that "you cannot put the trust of the country to a person who is actually a criminal."
In January, 2014, it was reported that Zuma had accused Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille of having "that old mentality that black people are not intelligent, if they succeed it must be probed." Zuma's remarks came after Zille had questioned matric pass improvements in various provinces. Zille had said that the surge in the number of successful candidates in Mpumalanga and the North West was questionable and unrealistic, and had called for an independent audit of the results. Zuma, reportedly, said in response: “They’ve always said that a black person cannot pass, we’re passing now...I heard this white person saying let there be an investigation, they can’t pass like this, and I said to myself, this person still has that old mentality that black people are not intelligent, if they succeed it must be probed.”
In 2010, Zuma's bodyguards were implicated in multiple incidents involving members of the public and journalists. In February, a Cape Town student, Chumani Maxwele, was detained by police after allegedly showing Zuma's motorcade a "rude gesture". Maxwele, an active ANC member, was released after 24 hours, having provided a written apology to police, which he later claimed was coerced. He also claimed that his home had been raided by plain-clothes policemen, and that he had been forced into the vehicle at gunpoint. Maxwele later instituted legal action against the police, and a complaint was filed on his behalf to the Human Rights Commission. The incident led to a heated dispute when it was discussed in Parliament.
In March, journalist Tshepo Lesole was forced to delete pictures of Zuma's convoy from his camera by police, and two photographers were detained by police when photographing Zuma's Johannesburg home. Sky News reporter Emma Hurd claimed she had been pushed, manhandled and "groped" by Zuma's bodyguards in 2009.
In January 2012, Zuma gave a speech at the ANC Centennial 2012 celebrations in Bloemfontein, South Africa and afterwards sang the song "Dubul' ibhunu" ("Shoot the Boer"). The song is controversial as the word "Boer" refers to both farmers and the Dutch population of South Africa, which has been plagued by violent attacks on white farmers that has seen over 4,000 killed since the end of Apartheid.
In 2012, Zuma was featured in a satirical painting by Cape Town-based artist Brett Murray, who depicted him in his painting The Spear, in a pose similar to Lenin, but with his genitals exposed. The ANC responded by threatening court action against the gallery showing the painting, and further demanding that the image should be removed from online sources. The subsequent aggressive sharing of the image through social networks can be considered a form of the Streisand effect. On 22 May 2012, the painting was vandalised while it was hanging in an art gallery in Johannesburg. The face and genitals of Zuma were painted over.
Clive Khulubuse Zuma, the nephew of Jacob Zuma, was named in the Panama Papers as a result of his links to oilfields in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Shortly after president Jacob Zuma met with DRC president Joseph Kabila, Khulubuse Zuma's company Caprikat Limited secured a R100 billion rand oil deal in the DRC.
In June 2012, activists, including some from the ANC itself, complained about the amount the state paid to support Zuma's wives, especially in the context of the country's widespread poverty. In 2009/10 Zuma received a budget of £1.2m for "spousal support", almost twice the amount paid during the terms in office of Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe, leading to suggestions that only Zuma's first wife should receive state support.
Zuma paid 10 cattle as lobola for Swazi Princess Sebentile Dlamini in 2003.
On 3 February, Zuma responded, confirming that the child was his, and that he had paid inhlawulo, acknowledging paternity. He protested the publishing of the child's name, saying it was illegal exploitation of the child. He denied that the incident had relevance to the government's AIDS programme (which promotes marital fidelity as a mechanism for preventing the disease), and appealed for privacy. On 6 February, Zuma said he "deeply regretted the pain that he caused to his family, the ANC, the alliance and South Africans in general." The office of the presidency's comment was that it was a private matter.
The mother of the child said: "What baby are you talking about? I have two children. They are in school. These are people's lives. Let me be," she told the Sowetan.
The ANC defended Zuma, saying it saw no links between its policies on HIV/AIDS and Mr Zuma's personal life. Former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, said "We are Africans and sitting here all of us, Zuma is our father so we are not qualified to talk about that". Malema said the ANCYL would emphasise its HIV programme and "one boyfriend, one girlfriend" stance in an awareness campaign across the country. ANC Women's League deputy president Nosipho Dorothy Ntwanambi said: "it is not right to have an extramarital affair if you have committed to yourself to a marriage. But under the Customary Marriages Act, if the first wife agrees, and if all these issues are discussed with her, we can't do anything." On 5 February, the ANC acknowledged the widespread disapproval by saying that the experience had "taught us many valuable lessons", and they had listened to the people.
COSATU, an ANC alliance partner, passed no judgment but hoped that it will be "a matter on Zuma's conscience" Vavi reiterated Zuma's appeal then that he be accorded his "right to privacy" and the child protected from undue publicity.
Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance said Zuma contradicted his public message of safe sex to South Africans, among the worst sufferers of AIDS. She said it was wrong to say it was purely a private matter, and elected public officials had to embody the principles and values for which they stand.
Zuma started the Jacob Zuma Foundation to send children to school and build houses for people living in poverty. The chairperson of the Foundation is Dudu Myeni, who is also the chairperson of South African Airways.
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|Deputy President of South Africa
|President of South Africa
|Party political offices|
|President of the African National Congress