Zuma, Jacob


Zuma, Jacob
▪ 2009

born April 12, 1942, Inkandla, Natal, S.Af.

      Although Jacob Zuma was elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) in December 2007, his chances of replacing outgoing South African Pres. Thabo Mbeki as president of the country in the 2009 election remained unclear in 2008. Shortly after his overwhelming victory over Mbeki as ANC president, Zuma was recharged with corruption and fraud, and additional charges of money laundering, racketeering, and tax evasion were brought against him.

      Zuma was the son of a policeman. He received no formal schooling, and he joined the ANC in 1959 and its military wing, Umkonto We Sizwe (MK), in 1962. He was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on Robben Island for conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government. After Zuma's release he set up underground networks to recruit for MK, fleeing the country in 1975 to escape arrest. He was based in Swaziland and later Mozambique, becoming (1977) a member of the ANC's national executive committee. In 1987 he moved to ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, where he served as head of underground structures and head of the intelligence department.

      When the South African government ban on the ANC was lifted in 1990, he was elected chairperson of the southern Natal region, and in 1991 he became ANC deputy general secretary. Following South Africa's first multiracial elections in 1994, Zuma became a member of the executive committee for economic affairs and tourism in KwaZulu-Natal.

      In December 1997 he was elected deputy president of the ANC, and in June 1999 he was appointed deputy president of the country. In June 2005, however, President Mbeki relieved him of this position following the fraud and corruption conviction of a close Zuma colleague, businessman Schabir Shaik. The judge in that case ruled that there was a generally corrupt relationship between Shaik and Zuma, who was subsequently charged with two counts of corruption.

      Zuma initially recused himself from all ANC activities, but the ANC national general council defied Mbeki by reinstating him as an active member and, eventually, as ANC deputy president. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP)—the ANC's two allies in a tripartite alliance—together with the ANC Youth League claimed that the charges against Zuma were politically motivated to prevent his succession as president.

      Supported by thousands of demonstrators, in March 2006 Zuma faced an additional trial on a rape charge, of which he was acquitted in May. Although a Durban court struck the corruption case from the roll in September 2006, stating that the state's case was not adequate, the charges were reinstated in December 2007. In September 2008 a judge threw out the charges based on evidence that Mbeki had conspired with prosecutors. Mbeki was forced to resign as president, but at year's end it was still uncertain if Zuma's trial would resume in 2009 just ahead of the presidential election.

      The support of influential COSATU and SACP leaders led some to maintain that if Zuma were elected president, he would introduce socialist, or at least more left-wing, economic policies. There was little evidence to support this theory, however, and Zuma stated that he would continue to implement existing ANC policies. His election as ANC president rather reflected deep unhappiness with Mbeki's overcentralized style of government, which suppressed dissent in the ANC. Zuma was seen as much more open and charismatic than the aloof Mbeki.

Martin Legassick

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▪ South African politician
in full  Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma 
born April 12, 1942, Inkandla, S.Af.
 
 politician who served as deputy president of South Africa (1999–2005) and became president of the country's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), in December 2007.

      Zuma received no formal schooling. He joined the ANC in 1959 and its military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), in 1962. He was arrested in 1963 and sentenced to 10 years in prison on Robben Island for conspiring to overthrow South Africa's apartheid government. After his release, he set up underground networks to recruit for Umkhonto we Sizwe. In 1975 Zuma fled the country to escape arrest. For more than a decade, he continued to work for the ANC while based in neighbouring countries—first in Swaziland and then in Mozambique. He became a member of the ANC's national executive committee in 1977. After the government of South Africa exerted pressure on that of Mozambique, Zuma was forced to leave the latter country in 1987. He then went to ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, where he served as head of underground structures (organizational units) and head of the intelligence department.

      When the South African government's ban on the ANC was lifted in 1990, Zuma returned to the country and was elected chairperson of the southern Natal region. He became ANC deputy general secretary in 1991, and in 1994 he became a member of the executive committee for economic affairs and tourism in the newly created province of KwaZulu-Natal. In December 1997 he was elected deputy president of the ANC, and in June 1999 he was appointed deputy president of the country by Pres. Thabo Mbeki (Mbeki, Thabo).

 Zuma was widely expected to eventually succeed Mbeki as president of the ANC and as president of the country. In June 2005, however, Mbeki dismissed him after the fraud and corruption conviction of one of Zuma's close colleagues, businessman Schabir Shaik. The judge in that case found that there was a generally corrupt relationship between Shaik and Zuma, who was subsequently charged with two counts of corruption. Zuma initially recused himself from all ANC activities, but the ANC national general council defied Mbeki by reinstating him as an active member and, eventually, as ANC deputy president. In March 2006, with the corruption charges still pending, Zuma faced trial on a rape charge, of which he was acquitted in May. In September a Durban court struck the corruption case from the roll, stating that the state's case was not adequate.

      Despite the repeated allegations of wrongdoing—which his many supporters claimed were politically motivated—Zuma remained a popular figure within the ANC. At the party's conference in December 2007, he was selected over Mbeki to be party president in what proved to be one of the most contentious leadership battles in the ANC's history. Later that month, Zuma was recharged with corruption and fraud, and additional charges of money laundering, racketeering, and tax evasion were brought against him. These charges were eventually dismissed on a legal technicality in September 2008; prosecutors vowed to appeal the ruling, angering many in the ANC. In addition, the presiding judge said there was evidence of political interference by Mbeki or his supporters in Zuma's prosecution, which ignited even more controversy within the party. Although Mbeki vehemently denied the allegations, a week later the ANC asked him to resign as president of South Africa, which he agreed to do.

      Although Zuma was widely expected to be chosen as the country's next president in the 2009 election, he was not eligible to serve as interim president, who under the terms of the constitution had to be a member of the National Assembly. Zuma ally Kgalema Motlanthe (Motlanthe, Kgalema) was the ANC's candidate for the position, and he was the overwhelming winner in a vote held by the National Assembly in late September 2008.

Martin Legassick Ed.
 

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Universalium. 2010.

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