Jacob Zuma was elected president of South Africa in 2009. In 2007, he won the presidency of the African National Congress, the country’s leading political party.
Born in Nkandla, South Africa, on April 12, 1942, Jacob Zuma was elected president of South Africa in 2009. In 2007, he won the presidency of the African National Congress, which he joined at an early age in 1959. Zuma served as deputy president of South Africa from 1999 to 2005. He is a controversial politician, involving himself in several legal scandals associated with corruption and racketeering. A polygamist, Zuma has 20 children.
Early Life and Background
Born on April 12, 1942, in Nkandla, South Africa, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma is a controversial figure in South-African politics. In late 2007, he was elected president of the African National Congress, the country’s leading political party, defeating Thabo Mbeki. In 2009, Zuma was elected president of South Africa, defeating Kgalema Motlanthe, who currently serves as his deputy president.
The road to the ANC presidency started long ago for Zuma. He was born in a part of South Africa now known as KwaZulu Natal (once Zululand) and became politically active at a young age. Influenced by a trade unionist family member, Zuma joined the ANC, a political party that stood against the country’s practice of apartheid—or racial segregation—and other discriminatory policies 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.
Entry Into Politics
Forced to go underground, the ANC, which had long been a nonviolent group, developed a militant wing in the early 1960s. Known as Umkhonto we Sizwe, the new militant group undertook acts of sabotage against the government. Zuma joined the group in 1962 and was arrested the next year with 45 other members and soon was convicted of conspiracy. Sentenced to 10 years in prison, he served his time in the infamous Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela, the country’s future president, was also imprisoned for many years.
After his release in 1973, Zuma continued working for the ANC and played an essential role in building the underground organization’s infrastructure in KwaZulu Natal. Two years later, he went into exile living in several different African nations. Zuma remained dedicated to the ANC and joined the organization’s National Executive Committee in 1977. Holding a number of ANC posts over the next decade, he established a reputation as loyal and hard working.
After the ban on the ANC was lifted in 1990, Zuma returned to South Africa. He helped the party negotiate with the existing government led by F. W. de Klerk about political prisoners and the return of exiles. In his native KwaZulu Natal, Zuma also worked to end the violence there. While he failed in his 1994 campaign to become premier of that province, Zuma is credited with establishing lasting peace in the region and became a member of the province’s Executive Committee of Economic Affairs and Tourism that year. Within his own political party, he won the position of national chairperson of ANC as well as the party’s chairperson position for the KwaZulu Natal.