By Samantha Loomes
Jacob Zuma, the name that every South african knows, a name filled with so much history and controversy, the former South African president accused of over 783 charges of corruption. This man has been in a position of power for a long time, and after many years of corruption being swept under the carpet, he finally announced his resignation on the 14th of February 2018, and act that some are calling a Valentines gift to the South African nation.
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was born on April 12, 1942, in Nkandla, a part of South Africa now known as KwaZulu Natal did not have an easy childhood, he grew up in an era known as “Apartheid” In South African, which was a terrible time that was built on racism, the countries rules and regulations meant segregation, with black people being treated very badly. Apartheid is defined as “ a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
segregation on grounds other than race.” by the Merriam Webster definition. On top of this his father who was a police officer died when he was only 4 years old. In the wake of his father’s death he worked odd jobs with little pay in an attempt to generate income for his family with no time for school, he taught himself how to read and write.
Zuma joined the ANC (African National Congress), a political party that stood against the country’s practice of apartheid— in the late 1950s. Also around this time, the ANC and other opposition groups were banned by the government so Zuma had to keep his membership secret. A plan was conceived by the ANC to send 45 new recruits to Zambia for military training to assist in their fight against the government. Zuma was part of this group. However, the plan was uncovered by the security police who organised an operation to arrest the group. In June 1963, Zuma, as well as his fellow comrades, were arrested in the Groot Marico area in the North West Province. Zuma was detained in the Hercules Police Station near Pretoria. He was questioned and beaten, even though the police already had enough evidence to secure a guilty verdict. The trial was held at the Pretoria Old Synagogue with Judge Fritz Steyn, presiding. On 12 August 1963, Zuma, at the age of 21, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for treason against the government. He was then transported to the infamous Robben Island (The same place Nelson Mandela was imprisoned) to serve his sentence.
He was later released in 29 December 1973. Upon his return to Nkandla he worked in a pet shop in Durban as a cover, but in actual fact he was working almost full time for the ANC once again. While behind the scenes, Zuma was once again involved in his political activities. He was, for instance, instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in Natal between 1974 and 1975, where he helped to provoke industrial unrest, aiding some 160 000 workers there to go on strike. From here Zuma’s rise to power went as follows, he briefly left the country to go to Swaziland in 1975 and upon his return in 1977 became an integral part of the ANC. He held a variety of leadership positions within the party including the Deputy President and as a result Deputy President of the country as the ANC were in power. However in June 2005 he was removed from power because he was implicated in corruption which came to light during the Durban High Court trial of his former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik. This is essentially where Zuma’s trouble with the law began. In December of the same year Zuma was formally charged with raping a woman, however in 2006 he was acquitted in the Johannesburg High Court. In the following years various corruption charges were made against him, but all of them were dropped. As Zuma’s popularity rose, he too rose in the ranks of his own party once again and was made President of the ANC in December 2007 and was inaugurated as President of the Republic of South Africa at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in May 2009.
Zuma continued to make waves in his first term as South African President began, he was the subject of a lot of controversy with a number of instances the most notable being the 2010, Zuma filing a $700,000 defamation lawsuit over a 2008 political cartoon which portrayed him raping a female figure symbolizing justice. Then again in 2012 the long arm of the law came for Zuma, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the Democratic Alliance (the largest opposition party) could challenge a previous court’s decision to drop corruption charges against Zuma.
In 2013 Zuma’s image as “the people’s president” quickly started to fade following the upgrading of his residence in the rural area of Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal, using state funds amounting to 246 million Rand.(AED 74,95 million, $20.5 million). An official inquiry cleared him of any wrongdoing, but the people were not convinced, this became apparent in December 2013 because during a memorial ceremony for South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, ANC supporters openly heckled and booed Zuma in front of foreign dignitaries. The anger of a country scorned was becoming more and more apparent.
However his first term was nothing compared to the second term, he was re-elected in May 2014, this is where the real trouble began.
In March 2014: Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s final report on security upgrades to the Nkandla compound, entitled “Secure in Comfort,” was published, despite Zuma’s attempts to have it blocked through court proceedings. In December 2015 Zuma once again left the nation in shock when he removed Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and replaced him with David van Rooyen. It was only four days later that he was forced to go back and re-appoint former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, after the public rioted. It was later in, 2017 that Gordhan was again replaced by Zuma’s one of Zuma’s inner circle members Malusi Gigaba.
In June 2015, Zuma proved that he was not against criminal activity. In a shocking move, the government in Pretoria allowed Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to leave South Africa despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The decision by South Africa not to arrest Bashir sparked international tensions which was met with a threat by Zuma’s government to withdraw its membership of the ICC.
Finally the citizens had, had enough. The country was in turmoil and the people were angry. Riots and protests began. People wore black in support of the “Zuma Must Fall” movement and as a result in March of 2016, the High Court ruled that Zuma breached his oath of office by using government money to upgrade his private home in Nkandla in 2013. This once again sparked public anger, and a book titled “Presidents Keeper” by Jacques Pauw came out, with wild claims over Zuma’s most scandalous moments which claimed that:
- Jacob Zuma paid no tax in his first term,
- That Zuma pocketed an illegal 1m rand -a-month as president,
- He spent over 1 billion rand of taxpayer money to undermine the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape.
The corrupt relationship between Zuma and powerful Gupta family was also revealed, and proved to be the last straw. The Gupta’s were accused of wielding enormous political influence in South Africa, and it is alleged that they tried to “capture the state” to advance their business interests. With Zuma’s corrupt nature finally exposed, the efforts to remove him from power became more urgent and aggressive. In the end his own party even moved against him. They elected a new party leader, Cyril Ramaphosa on December 18th 2017. With the hatred for Zuma growing amongst the public his own party slowly but surely started to pressure him to step down. It was on February 13th of this year that the ANC informed Zuma he had been “recalled in terms of its constitution” and was given the chance to resign. The following day after a decade of deceit and corruption, he announced his resignation.
A new day dawns in a politically fraught South Africa, and the fates of its people are now resting with the new President, Cyril Ramaphosa.