Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma
Names: Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa
Born: 12 April 1942, Nkandla, Zululand, Natal, South Africa
In summary: Member of the ANC and MK, Deputy Secretary General of the ANC, Deputy President of South Africa, President of South Africa and the African National Congress (ANC).
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was born on 12 April 1942 at Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal (then Zululand), and is the son of Nobhekisisa Bessie and Gcinamazwi Zuma. He was the first born of five children from his father's second wife. His father worked as policeman. After his father died, he and his mother left for his mother’s parental home in Maphumulo. Zuma began herding cattle while other children his age went to school. When there was little work in Nkandla, Zuma visited his mother in the suburbs of Durban, where she worked as a domestic worker. During this period, when opportunity arose, Zuma worked odd jobs in shops.
Zuma became politically influenced at a young age by stories of the Bambatha Rebellion as they were retold by men who had lived through the period of the rebellion. But, perhaps the greatest influence came from his step-brother Muntukabongwa Zuma. His brother had fought in World War II and later became a trade union activist and a member of the ANC. Furthermore, while visiting Cator Manor and Greyville, Zuma saw ANC volunteers in uniforms doing political work. Consequently, he began attending their organisation’s meetings.
According to Zuma, in an autobiographical report for the South African Communist Party (SACP), he organised and influenced an anti-pass campaign in the Noxamalala district in the Nkandla area. In 1959, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). That same year he joined the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), and began attending ANC and trade union meetings at Lakhani Chambers in Durban.
Anti Apartheid political activities, arrest and imprisonment
The banning of the ANC in 1960 led to the formation of its armed wing uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK). Zuma participated in sabotage actions in Natal and planned to leave South Africa for military training abroad. In 1962, he was introduced to a political study group in Cato Manor (Mkhumbane). During this period, he came under the influence of Obed Zuma, Stephen Dlamini and Moses Mabhida who were leading figures in SACTU. Zuma began attending evening political classes under the tutorship of Mabhida and Dlamini over a period of three years. In 1963, Zuma was then recruited as an active member of MK by Mabhida.
A plan was conceived by MK to send 45 new recruits out of the country for military training. Zuma was part of this group. The plan to board the ‘Freedom Train’ to Zambia was uncovered by the security police who organised an operation to arrest the group. In June 1963, as the group embarked on a journey to Botswana, Zuma, alongside others, was arrested in the Groot Marico area near Zeerust, in the Western Transvaal (now North West).
Zuma was detained under the 90-day detention law in solitary confinement at Hercules police station and then he was transferred to other prisons like Marastad jail and Pretoria Central Prison. He was interrogated and beaten, although the police already had enough evidence to secure a conviction. The trial was held at the Pretoria Old Synagogue with Judge Fritz Steyn as the presiding judge. On 12 August 1963, Zuma was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government at the age of 21. Along with some of his comrades, he was taken from Pretoria to Leeukop Prison outside Pretoria before being transported to Robben Island to serve his sentence. The vehicle stopped for an overnight sleep in Colesberg to collect other prisoners. It was here that Zuma met Ibrahim Ibrahim.
On Robben Island, Zuma stayed in the general section with a group of between 30 and 50 other prisoners and worked in the blue stone quarry digging and crushing slate for the construction of more prison cells. He was among the prisoners from Natal who initiated political study groups. He also served in a number of positions in ANC structures, which included being a group leader, a Public Relations Officer, cell leader and Chairman of the Political Committee. After prisoners fought for more rights in prison, sport was eventually permitted. Zuma also played soccer while on the Island and rose to become captain of the Rangers, a team that he played for. He was also part of a choral and traditional dance, cultural group. All these activities by prisoners were designed to draw their attention away from the monotony of prison life.
Release, resumption of political activities and exile
On Zuma’s release in December 1973, he was taken to Pietermaritzburg police cells where he was detained for another two weeks before being taken to Nkandla where he was eventually released. After his release, Zuma resumed his political activities. He was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in Natal between 1974 and 1975. Phyllis Naidoo, an attorney in Durban, found work for Zuma at a pet shop. Zuma played a role in organising workers, which resulted in strikes that broke out around 1974. He became part of an initiative, led by Harry Gwala, to recruit and send young people out of the country for military training. His primary responsibility was to ensure a safe passage for recruits into Mozambique and their re-entry into South Africa, with weapons and further instructions from the leadership on MK in exile. Around this period Zuma married his first wife Sizakele Khumalo.
After Gwala’s arrest, Zuma left the country in December 1975, for Swaziland, leaving his family behind. Over the next few years, he was based in Southern Africa; first in Swaziland and then Mozambique. During this period, he was involved in underground work with former PresidentThabo Mbeki and others, supporting ANC structures operating inside South Africa. Zuma was deployed to work largely with the Natal machinery, while Mbeki and Albert Dlomo worked on the Swaziland side.
Early in 1976, Zuma secretly entered the country to re-establish contact with activists in the Durban area. Then, in March 1976, Zuma, Mbeki and Dlomo were detained by Swaziland authorities at Matshapa prison. Two other members of the ANC were kidnapped from Swaziland and imprisoned in South Africa. After the intervention of Oliver Tambo who sent Moses Mabhida and Thomas Nkobi, Zuma, alongside his comrades, was released in April 1976 and deported to Mozambique.
In Mozambique, Zuma dealt with the thousands of young people that left South Africa after the Soweto uprising in June 1976. However, Zuma’s work remained largely focused on the Internal underground of the ANC. Towards the end of 1976, Zuma married his second wife Kate Mantsho who worked for the Mozambique airlines. After the formation of the Internal Political Reconstruction Committee (IPRC) in Mozambique, in 1977, Zuma, Indres Naidoo and John Nkadimeng were drafted into Maputo Regional Committee. Zuma was also co-opted as a member of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) in 1977. That same year, Zuma began working for the SACP, and completed a three month leadership and military training course in the Soviet Union in 1978.
By 1984, Zuma had been elected the Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC, the year the Nkomati Accord was signed between Mozambique and South Africa. After this accord was signed, Zuma was appointed as Chief Representative of the ANC and remained in Mozambique. He was re-elected to the ANC’s NEC at the Kabwe Conference in 1985. Zuma also served on the ANC's Military and Political Committees after its formation in the mid-80s, and the Intelligence Department at the ANC Head Office in Lusaka, Zambia. Zuma then married his third wife Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini who worked as a Paediatrician at the Mbabane Government hospital in Swaziland. They later separated and eventually divorced.
In December 1986, the South African government requested Mozambican authorities to expel six senior members of the ANC including Jacob Zuma. As a result of the pressure applied by the apartheid government on Mozambique, in January 1987, he was forced to leave Mozambique. Subsequently, he was appointed Head of Underground Structures and Chief of the Intelligence Department in Lusaka. Along with Mbeki, Zuma formed part of the ANC President, Oliver Tambo’s negotiation team, which met with the South African government representatives in the late 1980s to early 1990s.
Return to South Africa
After the ANC was unbanned in February 1990, Zuma clandestinely returned to the country in March, alongside Panuell Maduna and Mathews Phosa, to work as part of a steering committee tasked with identifying remaining obstacles to negotiations between the government and ANC. Later he was involved in negotiations which resulted in the signing of the Groote-Schuur Minute, an agreement that outlined important decisions regarding the return of exiles and the release of political prisoners.
In November 1990, Zuma was elected Chairperson of the ANC’s southern Natal region. In 1991, at the first ANC conference held in South Africa since 1959, he was elected Deputy Secretary General and attended the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), in December 1991, where he served as an ANC representative.
In 1993, Zuma was involved in negotiations between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), when violence erupted in Natal. He was later elected National Chairperson of the ANC and as Chairperson of the ANC in Natal, in December 1994. An exception was made in the ANC constitution to allow Zuma to hold both positions.
In January 1994, he was nominated as the ANC candidate for the Premiership of Natal, a position the ANC lost to the IFP. Later that year, Zuma was appointed MEC of Economic Affairs and Tourism for the KZN provincial government. After the 1994 elections, Zuma requested to be deployed to KwaZulu-Natal to work to cement peace between the ANC and IFP within the multiparty government of South Africa.
At the ANC’s National Conference held at Mafikeng in December 1997, Zuma was elected as the ANC’s Deputy President of the party. In 1999 he was appointed as the Deputy President of South Africa, a position he held until he was relieved of duties by state president Thabo Mbeki in June 2005. In October 1998, Zuma received the Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership for his role in ending political violence in KwaZulu-Natal, in Washington DC in the United States of America (USA). That same year he established the Jacob Zuma RDP Educational Trust Fund which is geared towards assisting children from impoverished backgrounds with education.
During his tenure, Zuma was involved in mediation with Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and between Rwanda. Zuma also launched the Moral Regeneration Movement to galvanise government and civil society.
The arms deal and alleged rape saga
During his tenure as Deputy President of South Africa, Zuma was also involved in controversies, which resulted in legal problems for Zuma. In 2002, Zuma was implicated in a major corruption scandal, in connection with the trial of his close associate Schabir Shaik. The state alleged that Zuma, used his position in government to enrich himself by benefitting from Shaik and companies involved in the procuring of arms for the state. It was further alleged that he violated ‘The Code of Conduct in Regard to Financial Interests’ to which all cabinet members are bound.
On 2 June 2005, Shaik was convicted at the Durban High Court on two counts of corruption and one of fraud relating to bribes he allegedly paid to Zuma. On 14 June 2005, President Thabo Mbeki relieved Zuma of his duties as Deputy President of the country, but he remained Deputy President of the ANC. At a meeting of the ANC’s leaders, Zuma offered to step down and clear his name, a move which was accepted. However, this was overturned by delegates at the ANC’s National General Council (NGC). Zuma’s legal problems continued as his home and that of his lawyers were raided by the Scorpions. He challenged the raid in court, but the South African Court of Appeal ruled that the investigators’ raids on Zuma’s home and office were legal, which allowed for the reinstatement of Zuma’s corruption charges, and a trial was set for August 2008.
Further controversy arose in November 2005, when Zuma was accused of rape. Zuma informed the ANC NEC that allegations of rape had been made against him, but issued a denial through his lawyer Michael Hulley. He went on trial in February 2006. Zuma argued that he had consensual sex with the alleged rape victim. He acknowledged making a mistake by having unprotected sex with an HIV positive woman.
The trial was heavily publicised in the media and when Zuma was acquitted in May 2006, he endured both negative and positive public response to the case. After his acquittal, he was reinstated as ANC Deputy President in May 2006. Further controversy arose in 2010 when it emerged that Zuma had fathered a child with Sonono Khoza, daughter of Irvin Khoza, the Orlando Pirates chairman, and former chairman of the soccer World Cup local organising committee.
Ascendancy to power
In December 2007, Zuma was elected as President of the ANC at the party’s national conference in Polokwane, Limpopo. After his election, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) served Zuma with an indictment on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering. The trial date was set for August 2008. Then, in September 2008, the ANC NEC resolved to recall Thabo Mbeki as head of state. He was replaced by Kgalema Mothlante who became the third president of the Republic of South Africa for a period of about 7 months until elections were held. In April 2009, Zuma was elected as the fourth president of the South Africa. The NPA later withdrew all 16 charges (of racketeering, corruption, fraud and tax evasion) against Zuma in the Durban High Court on 6 May 2009.
After the withdrawal of the charges, Zuma was inaugurated as president on 9 May 2009 at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. He also took over from Thabo Mbeki as mediator in resolving the Zimbabwe political crises under the banner of Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Zuma is married and has four wives, Sizakele Khumalo, Nompumelelo Ntuli, Tobeka Madiba and Bongi Ngema. Kate Mantsho one of Zuma’s wives whom he married while in exile died in 2000.
President (2007–present) Deputy President (1997 - 2007)
- Anthony, B, (2007), Cyril Ramaphosa (Revised), pp.262, 270, 271.
- Ellis, S & Sechaba, T, (1992), Comrades against Apartheid: the ANC & the South African Communist Party in Exile, (Indiana University Press), p.169
- Waldmeir, P, (1997), Anatomy of a Miracle: The End of Apartheid and the Birth of the New South Africa, (Rutgers University Press), p.143.
- News24, (2006), ANC to grill Zuma, from News 24.com, 06 June, [online] Available at www.news24.com [Accessed 06 September 2012]
- ANC, Biography Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, from the African National Congress, [online] Available at www.anc.org.za [Accessed 6 September 2012]
- Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, Mr, from the South African Government Information, [online] Available at www.info.gov.za [Accessed 6 September2012]
- The Guardian, (2006), Jacob Zuma cleared of rape, from The Guardian, 08 May, [online] Available at [Accessed 6 September2012]
- Wines, M, (2006), South Africa Drops Charge of Corruption for Official, from the New York Times, 21 September, [online] Available at www.nytimes.com [Accessed 6 September2012]
- Wines, M, (2007), Leadership Battle Grips South Africa’s Dominant Party, from the New York Times, 21 September, [online] Available at www.nytimes.com [Accessed 6 September2012]
- BBC, (2010), Profile: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, from the BBC, 1 March, [online] Available at www.bbc.co.uk/news [Accessed 6 September 2012]
- Staff Reporter, (2010), Zuma sues Zapiro, Avusa for R5m, from the Mail and Guardian, 14 December [online] Available at http://mg.co.za [Accessed 06 September 2012]