Here are five of his biggest scandals:
Rape charges and HIV
Before taking office, Zuma was put on trial in 2006 for rape, in a case that dismayed many South Africans.
Zuma said the sex with the 31-year-old family friend was consensual and he was acquitted.
But he told the court he had showered to avoid contracting HIV after having unprotected sex with his HIV-positive accuser — a common but dangerous myth.
Zuma was head of the South African National AIDS Council at the time, and was pilloried for his ignorance.
He is still mocked in newspaper cartoons, which often depict him with a shower nozzle sprouting from his bald head.
Nearly a fifth of South Africans aged between 15 and 49 are HIV-positive.
Zuma was found by the country’s graft watchdog in 2014 to have “benefited unduly” from so-called security upgrades to his rural Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal province. It said he should refund some of the money.
The work, paid for with taxpayers’ money, cost $24 million (22 million euros) and included a swimming pool, which was described as a fire-fighting facility, a chicken run, a cattle enclosure, an amphitheatre and a visitors’ centre.
For two years, Zuma fought the order to repay part of the money. The scandal came to dominate his presidency — with opposition lawmakers chanting “Pay back the money!” every time he appeared in parliament.
In March 2016 he was ordered by the Constitutional Court to pay back the cash and suffered a stinging rebuke from the justices who accused him of failing to respect and uphold the constitution.
As the Nkandla debacle built to a climax, its place in the headlines was overtaken by a new scandal, known as Guptagate.
It involved the president’s allegedly corrupt relationship with a wealthy family of Indian immigrants headed by three brothers — Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta — who built a business empire in mining, media, technology and engineering.
Smouldering rumours of the family’s undue influence on the president burst into flames in 2016 when evidence emerged they allegedly offered key government jobs to those who might help their business interests.
Ousted deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas revealed that the Guptas had offered him a promotion shortly before Zuma sacked respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) laid corruption charges against the Guptas and Zuma’s son Duduzane.
In October 2017, after a marathon legal campaign by the DA party, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Zuma was liable for prosecution over almost 800 counts of corruption relating to a 1990s arms deal.
The accusations relate to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal signed in 1999, when Zuma was deputy president. He allegedly accepted bribes from international arms manufacturers to influence the choice of weaponry.
Zuma’s advisor, Schabir Shaik, was jailed for 15 years in 2005. He was released on medical parole in 2009, the year Zuma became president.
After he leaves office, Zuma faces the risk of jail over 18 criminal charges over the 783 payments he received.
In March 2016 the South African Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a judgement that the failure by Zuma’s government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was illegal.
Despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in the conflict in Darfur, Bashir was allowed to attend a meeting of the African Union in Johannesburg in 2015.
The government said the fact that he was attending the summit as a head of state meant he had immunity, but the court disagreed.
Zuma escaped an impeachment attempt over the issue in parliament in September 2016, when ANC lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against it.