Posted by Grand News | 15 February 2018 | 3,076 times
Jacob Zuma is the most colourful and controversial president South Africa has had since white-minority rule ended in 1994. He has been a politician of nine lives, surviving a series of scandals which would have surely ended anyone else's career. But Mr Zuma, the man born into poverty who went into exile to fight apartheid before rising to become "the people's president", could only hold on for so long.
No longer leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), those charges of corruption - always vehemently denied - caught up with him in the end. He was facing his ninth vote of no-confidence in parliament before he left office.
Mr Zuma's bid for the presidency was written off before he had even really started. In the run-up to the 2009 election, he was simultaneously battling allegations of rape and corruption. He was acquitted of raping an HIV-positive family friend in 2006 - although the fact he told the court he had showered in order to avoid catching HIV would continue to haunt him throughout his presidency.
The corruption case, however, proved harder to shake off, even after it was controversially dropped by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) just weeks before the elections which saw him become president. But the charges of money-laundering and racketeering, stemming from a controversial $5bn arms deal signed in 1999, refused to go away. In 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that 18 counts of corruption should be reinstated.
He always denied the charges, and said he would resign if found guilty of wrongdoing.
'The people's president'
It was his charisma which swept Mr Zuma to power in 2009. His supporters saw his popular touch as a refreshing contrast to then President Thabo Mbeki, who was seen as a rather aloof president.
"He is a man who listens; he doesn't take the approach of an intellectual king," said one unnamed supporter, in an apparent swipe at Mr Mbeki, whose allies were accused of spearheading Mr Zuma's prosecution after he had wrested control of the ANC in 2007.
Mr Zuma's modest upbringing and promotion of traditional family values are also seen as a major factor in his long-lived popularity among many poor South Africans, especially in rural areas.
The 75-year-old is a proud polygamist - following a Zulu tradition - and currently has four wives. He has been married six times in total, and has 21 children. One of his wives, Mozambican Kate Mantsho, took her own life in 2000.
However, he is also known for his infidelity and has fathered a child with another woman. But it wasn't long until people were questioning his carefully crafted "people's president" image. By 2013, it lay in tatters following the upgrading of his residence in the rural area of Nkandla, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, using state funds.
By the time of the memorial for South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, in December of that year, ANC supporters were openly heckling and booing him in front of foreign dignitaries - including US President Barack Obama.
"He is eating when we are hungry," one protester said, capturing the public anger over the Nkandla upgrade, which came complete with cattle enclosure, amphitheatre, swimming pool, visitor centre and chicken run.
Mr Zuma has since paid back the overspend.
Time Line Of Accussations
2005: Charged with corruption over multi-billion dollar 1999 arms deal - charges dropped shortly before he becomes president in 2009
2016: Court orders he should be charged with 18 counts of corruption over the deal - he has appealed
2005: Charged with raping family friend - acquitted in 2006
2016: Court rules he breached his oath of office by using government money to upgrade private home in Nkandla - he has repaid the money
2017: Public protector said he should appoint judge-led inquiry into allegations he profiteered from relationship with wealthy Gupta family - he denies allegations, as have the Guptas
2018: Zuma approves inquiry.
The scene of one of his greatest scandals was also the place of his birth. Mr Zuma was born in Nkandla on 12 April 1942. Brought up by his widowed mother, he had no formal schooling.
Later, aged 17, he would join the ANC, becoming an active member of its military wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe, in 1962.
He was convicted of conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government and imprisoned for 10 years on the notorious Robben Island, alongside Nelson Mandela.
Mr Zuma is said to have helped keep up morale among the incarcerated ANC grandees with songs and impromptu theatre - it was that comical nature which endeared him to ordinary South Africans before his elevation to the presidency.
After being freed from prison, Mr Zuma left South Africa, living first in Mozambique, then Zambia, as he rose through the ANC ranks to the executive committee.
He became one of the first leaders to return home in 1990 - when the ban on the ANC was removed - to take part in negotiations with the white-minority government.
While trying to oust Mr Mbeki, he enjoyed strong support among trade unionists and the communist party - an ANC ally - as they believed he would redistribute South Africa's wealth in favour of the poor.
But under Mr Zuma, the economy remained moribund and the unemployment rate rose to about 28%, while almost daily protests were held by people demanding better basic services such as housing, schools, water and electricity.
And after he had been in power for just a few years, many of his erstwhile allies, such as firebrand youth leader Julius Malema, dropped him, accusing the man known as "JZ" of not doing enough to help the poor. ( With Agency Reports)
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