The rise and fall of Jacob Zuma: from veteran to grim post-presidential status


After the prison sentence was handed down on Tuesday, former South African President Jacob Zuma had five days to surrender to the police and be handed over to a prison. But his supporters, including the Umkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association, are camping in his Nkandla residence, vowing to defend him.

Zuma, 79, continues to monopolize the spotlight in South Africa, more in shame and scandal, far from the bravery of his heyday as the intelligence supremo who led the spy unit of the African National Congress during the struggle against apartheid.

He spent 10 years in prison on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela after being arrested for his political activities against apartheid. For this, Zuma is seen as potentially powerful in causing unrest following his prison sentence.

Many believe he is using his status as a veteran of the independence struggle to present himself as an untouchable politician

But how did he end up in this current situation?

Four years after being ousted as South Africa’s vice president amid a corruption scandal, Jacob Zuma has rebounded to become the country’s head of state. These were the proverbial nine lives of a cat, and few thought it would ever go to jail.


In 2005, the year then-president Thabo Mbeki abandoned him as his deputy, Zuma was also charged with raping an HIV-positive family friend. He was acquitted the following year, but not before his now infamous admission of a “cold shower” to prevent himself from contracting HIV. He was then the head of the National AIDS Council.

Despite this, Zuma dramatically defeated Mbeki in 2007 to become leader of the African National Congress, an achievement that accelerated him to become president of South Africa two years later.

The damage to his reputation apparently caused by the corruption controversy involving a European arms dealer and Schabir Shaik, as well as the HIV sex scandal, would have been enough to end any political career. But not Zuma. Beating Mbeki was a fierce fight that underscored his overwhelming support within the ANC, despite all the controversies.

The corruption affair continued to haunt him, but Zuma became South Africa’s fourth president in May 2009. But nine months later it sparked yet another sex scandal. An extramarital affair with the daughter of his friend Irvin Khoza, president of the popular Orlando Pirates Football Club, produced a child in love, and once again, Zuma apologized.

Senior ANC officials were angry at his pledge, when he was elected party leader in 2007, not to bring the party into disrepute with sex scandals. But he escaped being recalled by the ANC, and there was public outrage at the ANC for turning a blind eye to Zuma’s transgressions.

“It put a lot of pressure on my family and my organization, the African National Congress. I deeply regret the pain I have caused to my family, the ANC, the [tripartite] Alliance and South Africans in general, ”Zuma said in another excuse. “I reaffirm my commitment and that of my movement for the importance of the family as an institution.

At that time, he already had four wives because polygamy is allowed in his Zulu culture. In 2012, he married a fifth wife. This time around, it seemed his political fortunes had waned, but he was surprisingly re-elected unchallenged as head of the ANC in 2012. This prepared him for another term as South African president who has started two years later although he indicated earlier that he would. not look for another mandate. But his downfall began at the start of his second administration in 2014.

He had to fight political pressure, for two years, from opposition parties to repay state money he had used to have an extravagant upgrade to his private property in Nkandla. The renovations were deemed inappropriate before the Constitutional Court ordered him to reimburse the money.

But the final blow to Zuma’s presidency was his alleged association with the Gupta family, which intensified pressure for his resignation as head of state. Indian-born brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta are said to be the power behind the South African government and the looting of state-owned enterprises with Zuma’s help.

The Guptas are said to have exercised unlimited influence over cabinet selection as well as board appointments of state-owned companies. It is estimated that $ 84 billion in public funds were extracted from South Africa by key patronage networks between 2011 and 2017 in what is commonly referred to as the state capture scandal.

After surviving eight no-confidence motions in parliament, Zuma’s woes escalated when current President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected leader of the ANC in December 2017.

When the ninth motion of no confidence set for February 15, 2018 seemed likely to overthrow him as president, Zuma resigned his post as South African head of state on Valentine’s Day, ushering in the reign of Ramaphosa. But before he resigned, Zuma’s alleged proximity to the Guptas created grounds for the establishment of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the State Capture Allegations.

The Commission is headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and investigates allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector. But Zuma refused to appear before the investigative body. This sparked a series of problems in his post-presidential run, culminating in a 15-month prison sentence this week for defying the Constitutional Court’s order to appear before the Zondo Commission.

On Wednesday, the Jacob Zuma Foundation denounced Zuma’s imprisonment “as judicially emotional and angry and not in accordance with our Constitution.”

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