Jacob Zuma is a South African politician who served as the country’s fourth president from 2009 to 2018. He is famously known by his initials JZ and his clan name Msholozi. He is a former anti-apartheid activist and also a member of ber of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the paramilitary wing of the African National Congress.
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma famously known as Jacob Zuma was born to Nobhekisisa and Geinamazwi Zuma on the 12th of April 1942 in Nkanla, South Africa. Zuma is the firstborn of five children of his father. His mother had three sons with his father, Zuma being the eldest. He got his middle name ‘’Gedleyihlekisa’’ from his father who constructed the name from a Zulu phrase, which translated into English; “I cannot keep quiet when someone pretends to love me with a deceitful smile.”
His father was a policeman who died when Zuma was five. After his death, he and his mother left for his mother’s parental home in kwaMaphumulo, Natal. At age 7, he started herding his grandfather’s cattle while his mates are in school. His mother was not happy seeing him rear cattle and wished she could take him back to Nkandla but there was no school there.
When Zuma grew up to the youth stage, his mother had to port to Durban where she found employment as a domestic worker. She had to leave Zuma back in the trenches. Despite being alone, Zuma was resilient. He started to teach himself how to read by looking at the books of other children who attended school. He even fixed a night school for himself with some of his friends. They approached a lady who was in Standard four to teach them, paying 25 cents in exchange for the knowledge.
In his teens, Zuma would pay his mother a visit at Cato Manor but was not always allowed in the house where she worked. All these experiences rather built him to be stronger. Zuma began to love politics after he was influenced by the stories of the Bambatha Rebellion, the story of a man who lived through a period of rebellion.
As much as the rebellion story was a muse, Zuma’s brother, Muntukabongwa Zuma, was his motivation. His brother was one of the soldiers who fought during World War II and later became an active trade union activist and a member of the African National Congress.
While he visits Cato Manor and Greyville in Durban, Zuma would watch ANC volunteers engage in political activities. Subsequently, he became attached to what they do and began to attend the organization’s meetings. Zuma received no formal schooling, despite that, he never saw them as weaknesses.
He taught himself how to read and write and also learnt French, Xhosa, Portuguese, Swahili, and Russian, which he speaks fluently. He also has Soviet Union training.
Jacob Zuma joined the ANC and the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) as well as the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU). He started to attend ANC and trade union meetings at Lekhani Chambers in Central Durban. He spent three years and was consistently attending political education classes there.
In 1960, ANC was banned, leading to the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe. Zuma joined the organisation and became involved in the armed struggle. Zuma also participated in sabotage actions in Natal.
As was common for aspiring Mk at the time, Zuma intended to leave South Africa to receive military training abroad. He was influenced by Obed Zuma, a relative, as well as Moses Mabhida and Stephen Dlamini, two prominent SACTU members, during this time. For three years, Zuma took evening political training facilitated by Mabhida and Dlamini. Finally, in 1963, Mabhida actively sought out Zuma to join MK.
Later, MK came up with the idea of sending 45 fresh recruits to Zambia for military training on the “Freedom Ferry”. Zuma wa part of the selected candidates. However, security police got to know about the plan and organised an operation to arrest the group.
In June 1963, Zuma and others were detained in the Groot Marico region near Zeerust, while the gang were on their way to Botswana. Zuma was arrested for 90 days in solitary confinement at the Hercules police station near Pretoria. He was interrogated and tortured even though the police already found enough evidence to secure a conviction.
On 12th August 1963, Zuma at the age of 21 was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the government. Along with the rest of his comrades, he was kept in the Leeukop jail before he was transported to Robben Island to serve his sentence.
He served his term with Nelson Mandela and other notable ANC leaders. While in prison, Zuma was appointed as the referee for prisoner’s association football games, organised by Makana F.A, the prisoner’s governing body.
Eventually, Zuma was released from prison and he became instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC background structures in Natal. In 1975, he left South Africa and went to Swaziland where he met Thabo Mbeki. He proceeded to Mozambique where he dealt with the arrival of thousands of thousands of exiles who arrived in search of military training after the 1976 Soweto rebellion.
In 1977, he was admitted as a full member of the ANC National Executive Committee and also became a member of the ANC’s Politico-Military Council in 1983. Zuma was also the ANC’s deputy chief representative in Mozambique, a post he occupied until the Mozambican and South African governments signed the Nkomati Accord in 1984.
He was also chosen to serve as the ANC’s Chief Representative in Mozambique after signing the Accord. In December 1986, the South African government requested that Mozambican authorities to expels six senior members of the ANC, Zuma was included. He was forced to leave Mozambique in January and moved to Lusaka, Zambia, The ANC headquarters. On his arrival, he was appointed Head of the ANC’s underground structures and later appointed as the chief of the intelligence department.
In February 1990, the ANC was unbanned. This development made Zuma return on 21st March, alongside Panuell Maduna and Mattews Phosa, to begin the process of negotiations between the government and the ANC. Towards the end of that year, he was elected unopposed as the ANC’s Southern Natal Chairperson.
Subsequently, he was involved in negotiations that led to the signing of the Groote-Schuur Minute, an agreement that outlined crucial decisions regarding the release of political prisoners and the return of exiles.
Later in August 1990, while Mandela, Mbeki, and Zuma were away, Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s then-secretary general, called a meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC), which dismissed Zuma from his post as head of intelligence and appointed Mbeki to take over the ANC’s negotiations with the government. Nevertheless, in November 1990, Zuma won the election for Southern Natal region chair of the ANC.
In 1991, Zuma established The Peace and Reconstruction Foundation, alongside Frank Mdlalose, the National of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), to reconstruct the devastation caused by internal conflicts between the ANC and the IFP. He is largely credited for reducing the IFP’s support and eroding its hold on power in KwaZulu-Natal.
That same year, Zuma was elected as the Deputy Secretary General and attended the convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), where he served as the chair of the ANC’s negotiations commission. At the end of 1990, Zuma left SACP, dedicating himself fully as a member of the ANC.
In the 1994 general elections, South Africa’s first democratic election, Zuma was the candidate for the premiership of his newly constituted home province, KwaZulu-Natal. ANC rose to power in the elections, with Mandela elected as the president and Mbeki his deputy but Zuma lost KwaZulu to the IFP. Zuma eventually became a member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Economic Affairs and Tourism in KwaZulu-Natal.
In December 1994, he was elected as the ACN Provincial Chairperson for KwaZulu. At the ANC’s 1994 elective conference, Zuma became National Chairperson, winning against Pallo Jordan and Jeff Rabede by a large margin. He held both positions till 1997, having been reelected as the Provincial Chairperson in 1996.
In 1997, Zuma was elected as the Deputy President of the ANC at the party’s 50th National Conference in Mafikeng. Subsequently, he was appointed as the Deputy President of South Africa in June 1999. Serving under the administration of Thabo Mbeki, Zuma became the Chief mediator in the Burundi peace process. In Burundi, he worked with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who chaired the Great Lake Regional Initiative.
In the 2004 general election, Mbeki and Zuma were both re-elected but on the 14th of June 2005, Mbeki removed Zuma as his Deputy because of the conviction of Zuma’s associate Schabir Shaik for making corrupt payments to Zuma about the Arms Deal. Zuma was then succeeded by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the wife of Bulelani Ngcuka of the NPA.
On the 18th of December 2007, Zuma was elected as the President of ANC at the congress’s 52nd National Conference in Polokwane, Limpopo. While he was addressing the conference, he stressed on unity of the organization as his priority. He appreciated Mbeki for his tremendous effort for ANC.
A few years after Zuma’s election, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) charged Zuma with an indictment on charges of fraud, corruption, and money laundering. On 12 September 2008, Judge Chris Nicholson, while preceding the court in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, debunked the allegation that the corruption charges were placed on Zuma, saying they were unlawful on procedural grounds. Mbeki was also charged and applied to the Constitutional Court to appeal the Nicholson verdict, which the NPA opposed.
On the 20th of 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. Kgalema was in office for approximately 7 and half months (between 25 September 2008 and 9 May 2009).
Later, NPA withdrew all charges against Zuma in the Durban High Court on 6th May 2009. This development paved way for Zuma to make a move for the office of South African President.
Eventually, Zuma was elected President of the Republic of South Africa on 6th May 2009. He was inaugurated at the Union Buildings in Pretoria that same day, stating at that time that he prefers to serve just one term as President. However, he ran for the presidential seat twice and he won on both occasions.
Jacob Zuma’s first term in the Presidency seat was from 2009-2014. During that time, Zuma’s former financial advisor, Schabir Shaik was released from jail on medical parole just 28 months into his 5-year jail sentence. Rumours began to fly around that the new president may have had a hand in his release.
On the 21st of May 2014, Zuma was re-elected as the president after ANC announced him to be unopposed. Therefore, Zuma continued ruling as the Head of state just like he had been ruling way back. However, his second term in office came with more controversy.
Zuma was found guilty of exceeding his authority in February 2016 by then-Public Prosecutor Thuli Madonsela, who also ordered him to repay R7.8 million. The funds he had used to upgrade his Nkandla house using public funds.
After a thorough investigation, Zuma was found guilty of the allegations and the full court agreed that Madonsela’s report was binding. The court concluded that Zuma and the National Assembly had failed to uphold the country’s constitution. The court then ordered Zuma to repay the stated amount to be decided by the National Treasury.
On April 1 2016, in a public address, Zuma welcomed the judgement and apologies to the country for his misdeed. Following the court’s finding that Zuma had violated the Constitution, opposition leaders Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane immediately demanded Zuma’s resignation.
On April 5, 2016, a DA-sponsored impeachment resolution was defeated by a substantial 143-233 vote in the ANC-controlled Parliament. Even Zuma’s ANC rivals Ramaphosa, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas surprised observers by voting against the motion. ANC politicians defended Zuma during the debate before the vote, with Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery asserting that Zuma was not culpable for “severe misconduct.”
ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu also agreed that Zuma’s infringement of the Constitution was not “severe” enough to warrant impeachment, and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, speaking for the party’s Top Six leaders, said that the move to impeach Zuma was “more an over-exaggeration.” In a previous statement, the ANC Women’s League declared its “unwavering” confidence in Zuma.
on April 12, 2016, journalist Max du Preez observed that the balance of power has irrevocably been shifted against Zuma, after the Nkandla ruling and unrelated allegations of state capture. The backlash was so severe that many commentators believed Zuma might be removed at a later time by the ANC itself due to the severity of the backlash.
This made The SACP, an ANC partner, voiced its displeasure with how Zuma and the ANC handled the Nkandla scandal. COPE also said it would boycott parliamentary proceedings in response to the ANC caucus’s decision not to sanction Zuma. Popular members of the civil society also called on Zuma to step down, including retired judge Zak Yacoob, former COSATU leader Zwelinzima Vavi, and the South African Council of Churches.
Public criticism of Zuma also came from within the ANC, to the chagrin of some Zuma friends, despite the ANC’s support for Zuma in the impeachment vote. Even at his subsequent public appearance, Zuma received some boos from ANC members. Several senior ANC and struggle leaders, including Ahmed Kathrada, Ronnie Kasrils, Trevor Manuel, and Cheryl Carolus, also publicly demanded Zuma’s resignation.
On the 7th of April 2017, protests began to sprout against Zuma and his government. The protest took place in several places in South Africa, with the March reshuffle and corruption cited as central motivating factors.
The largest marches were at the Union Buildings in Pretoria which had in attendance about 25,000 people and at the parliament in Cape Town, which was attended by between 12,000 to 20,000 people.
Before the 54th National Conference of the African National Congress, Zuma wanted his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him as ANC president. Zuma wanted Dlamini-Zuma on the seat so that he could use his relationship with her to maintain his control of the ANC and the State presidential seat. He also wanted to avoid prosecution on corruption charges, hence wanted her there.
Dlamini campaigned on a platform of economic transformation, whilst her opponent, Deputy President Ramaphosa, focused on anti-corruption. On the 18th of December, 2017, at the elections, Ramaphosa nearly beat Dlamini-Zuma in a vote and succeeded Zuma as ANC president.
After Ramaphosa attained the position of the ANC President, there was growing pressure for Jacob Zuma to resign from the national presidency. On the 6th of February 2018, Zuma’s annual State of Nation Address slated to hold on the 8th of February was postponed indefinitely. This was done deliberately to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere.
The week after, Ramaphosa and Zuma spent 5 days negotiating but it later became clear on 12 December that the negotiation had failed. This made ANC NEC inform the masses and Zuma that he would have to resign from his post and that he had until midnight on 14 February 2018 to drop his resignation.
The party emphasized that if he doesn’t abide, there would be a vote of no confidence in the parliament the following day. The ANC in collaboration with the opposition parties agreed on the procedure of the vote and it was widely supported that Zuma should be voted out.
On February 14 2018, The South African elite crime-fighting unit, The Hawks, raided The Gupta family, who were considered to be Zuma’s allies, patrons, and reportedly the principal beneficiaries of the alleged corrupt structures established during Zuma’s tenure.
During the day, Zuma had an interview session, saying he would not step down because he felt he had done nothing wrong. He further mentioned that the party that has given him soo much are only trying to force him out. However, the public analysed his interview and the majority believed that he was only trying to create a narrative that would paint him as the victim, one that was far from reality. Later in the night of that interview, Zuma gave a full briefing, announcing his resignation as the President of South Africa.
The week after, Zuma attended a farewell party organised in his honour, hosted by President Ramaphosa at Tuynhuys in Cape Town. the party also had in attendance other members of the cabinet. Although all former presidents are invited to all of the State of Nation addresses, Zuma did not attend Ramaphosa’s addresses in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Jacob Zuma is not new to controversies even after his tenure. Although the charges pulled against him were dropped at some point, later, his name was not spared. Most of the allegations against him were corruption and maladministration.
In 1999, while he was the president of SA, he was accused of mismanaging 29 million Rands which he used to purchase strategic arms such as planes, boats, submarines and helicopters. However, in 2003, the charges were dropped.
Later, he was again entangled in corruption when his financial advisor was convicted of fraud and corruption. This made Thabo Mbeki sack him as the deputy president. He was also charged with rape in 2005 when he was accused of raping a 31-year-old woman known by the pseudonym Khwezi. When the trial began on the 6th March 2006, Zuma pleaded not guilty, claiming he and Khwezi had consensual sex.
Later, Zuma generated public controversy when he admitted that he had not used protections while having sex with Khewzi, despite knowing she was HIV positive. However, he told the court that he has taken a shower after the act, claiming that reduced his risk of getting infected.
On May 8 2006, the court acquitted Zuma of rape although the judge, Willem van der Merwe sanctioned him for having had unprotected sex.
In 2010, Zuma’s bodyguards were implicated in several incidents by the public and journalists. They were challenged for how often they misused their powers. In February, a cape town student who doubles as an active ANC member was wrongfully detained by the police for allegedly showing Zuma’s motorcade which they considered “ a rude gesture’’. He was jailed for 24 hours and was released after he provided a written apology to the police, which he later claimed was coerced.
Maxwele also claimed his house was raided by policemen in plain clothes and he was forced into the police van at gunpoint. Later, he had to institute legal actions against the police. The Human Right Commission also interfered as they filed a complaint on behalf of the victim. This incident led to a heated dispute when it was discussed in Parliament.
Zuma was also involved in another controversy in 2012 when he was featured in a satirical painting by a Cape Town-based artist, Brett Murray. Murray depicted Zuma in his painting The Spear, with his genitals exposed. The ACN reacted badly to the painting by threatening the gallery with court actions and further demanded that the image should be removed from all online sources.
Jacob Zuma is a polygamist. Being a Zulu man, it is in their culture to marry more wives. Zuma has been married six times and according to a report by Daily Telegraphy in 2012, he has 20 or more children. In 2014, the Guardians also reported that he had 21, some of whom were born out of wedlock.
Zuma’s first wife is Gertrude Sizakele Khumalo. He met her in 1959 and they got married shortly after he was released in 1973. However, Sizakele is still Zuma’s present wife but they have no children together. In 1976, he got married to Kate Mantsho while he was in exile in Mozambique. On the 8th of December, she committed suicide and was buried in Heroes’ Acre at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg.
Zuma and Mantsho have five children including, twins Duduzane, Phumzile, Mxolisi Saady and Nhlakanipho Vusi, who was born in 1993 but died on the 1st of July 2018. Within 1982 and 1984, Zuma got married to Nkosazana Dlamini, who he met while he was in exile in Swaziland.
Dlamini is an ANC politician and cabinet member. In June 1998, they separated but have four daughters together: Msholozi (born 1982), Gugulethu (born 1985), Nokuthula Nomaqhawe, also known as Thuli (born 1987), and Thuthukile (born 1989).
In 2008, he married Nompumelelo Ntuli on the 5th of January. In 2014, the police investigated her on the allegation that she had attempted to kill Zuma with poisoned tea. She denied the accusations and the NPA declined to punish her because there was no sufficient evidence against her. As of 2022, according to reports, she and Zuma are estranged. They have three children together; Kholwani (born 2010), Sinqobile (born 2006) and Thandisiwe (born 2002).
As a man of many wives that he is, Zuma got married to Thobeka Stacie Mabhija on the 4th of January. She and Zuma are reportedly estranged and in 2020, she sued Zuma for spousal maintenance despite sharing three beautiful children.
In April 2022, Zuma got married to Gloria Bongekile Ngema with whom he shares a son, Sinqumo (born c. 2009). In 2017, emails were leaked on the so-called #GuptaLeaks scandal claiming that the Gupta family had helped pay for part of Ngema’s R5.4 million home in Pretoria’s Waterkloof Ridge.
Jacob Zuma also married other women including Princess Sebentile Dlamini, a niece of Swazi King Mswati III in 2012 but as of 2022, they are not married and reports had it that they are still engaged. He also engaged Nonkanyiso Conco (born 16 October 1993), a cast member on Real Housewives of Durban. Both of them are longer engaged but are still estranged. The couple however had a child together, Sakh’muzi (born 12 April 2018).
Zuma’s firstborn, Mziwoxolo Edward was not born by his first wife. He had him with Minah Shongwe in 1977. Minah was the sister of Judge Jeremiah Shongwe and was asked to rescue Zuma from his rape case accusation because of the relationship they shared. He also has two daughters with Pietermaritzburg popular business mogul, Nonkululeko Mhlongo, whom he met in 1990 and was rumoured to have engaged her.
In March 2017, a recording was leaked, revealing that Mhlongo allegedly outlined a plan for defrauding the KwaZulu government, with Zuma’s acknowledgement. Some of his other children include; a daughter born to Sonono Khoza in 2009, Thandekile Matina, the daughter of soccer administrator, Irvin Khoza and three children from a woman in from Johannesburg as well as a child from Richard’s Bay.
Zuma doubles as a grandfather for 7 kids known to the public but reports had it that he has more grandchildren. Some of his grandchildren are “Sethu”, “Amahle”, “Sthelwesihle”, “Asante”, “Azizah” and “Akhila” . ‘’Ethan” is also one of his grandchildren.
Zuma is known to be a charismatic man with an affable personality. He is also regarded to be a generous man. He is passionate about education and this led him to establish a foundation, Jacob Zuma Foundation, a foundation established to send children to school and build houses for people living in poverty.
Dudu Myeni is the Former Chairperson of the Foundation and also the chairperson of South African Airways. She resigned her membership on the boards of Directors and other bodies because she was declared delinquent director for life in May 2020, by the Pretoria High Court.
Honours and Awards
- Imo Merit Award, the highest award in the Imo State of Nigeria, is conferred on those who have made a difference in the development of their communities. (15 October 2017)
- During a visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, Jacob Zuma was made an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
- Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Medical University of South Africa, awarded in Washington, D.C. (1998)
- University of Zululand (2001), Honorary Doctor of Administration.
- University of Fort Hare (2001), Honorary Doctor of Literature/Letters.
- Medical University of Southern Africa (2001), Honorary Doctor of Philosophy.
- University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Campus (2009), Honorary Doctor of Law.
- Peking University (2012), Honorary Professor of International Relations.
- Zuma was invested with a chieftaincy title – that of the Ochiaga of Imo – during his trip to the kingdom of Eze Samuel Ohiri of Imo on 15 October 2017
- Nigeria’s Imo State unveiled a statue of Jacob Zuma on 15 October 2017.
Jacob Zuma Net Worth
Zuma is regarded as one of the richest politicians in South Africa. He has a net worth estimated to be $20 million and he got his wealth from being a political mogul.