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Jacob Zuma

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Jacob Zuma
Malcolm Turnbull and Jacob Zuma in Jakarta 2017 11 cropped.jpg
Zuma in 2017
4th President of South Africa
In office
9 May 2009 – 14 February 2018
DeputyKgalema Motlanthe
Cyril Ramaphosa
Preceded byKgalema Motlanthe
Succeeded byCyril Ramaphosa
13th President of the African National Congress
In office
18 December 2007 – 18 December 2017
DeputyKgalema Motlanthe
Cyril Ramaphosa
Preceded byThabo Mbeki
Succeeded byCyril Ramaphosa
3rd Deputy President of South Africa
In office
14 June 1999 – 14 June 2005
PresidentThabo Mbeki
Preceded byThabo Mbeki
Succeeded byPhumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Personal details
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma

(1942-04-12) 12 April 1942 (age 80)
Nkandla, Natal, Union of South Africa
Political partyAfrican National Congress
(m. 1973)

Kate Mantsho
(m. 1976; died 2000)

(m. 1982; div. 1998)

(m. 2008)

Thobeka Mabhija
(m. 2010)

Gloria Bongekile Ngema
(m. 2012)
Children20 (estimated), including Gugulethu, Thuthukile and Duduzane
  • Politician
  • anti-apartheid activist

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (Zulu: [geɮʱejiɬeˈkisa ˈzʱuma]; born 12 April 1942) is a South African politician who served as the fourth president of South Africa from 2009 to 2018. He is also referred to by his initials JZ and his clan name Msholozi.[1][2][3] A former anti-apartheid activist and a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, he was also the president of the African National Congress (ANC) between 2007 and 2017.

Zuma was born in the rural region of Nkandla in what is now the province of KwaZulu-Natal, still the centre of Zuma's support base. He joined the ANC as a teenager in 1959 and spent ten years as a political prisoner on Robben Island. He went into exile in 1975 and was ultimately appointed head of the ANC's intelligence department. After the ANC was unbanned in 1990, he rose quickly through the party's national leadership, becoming deputy secretary general in 1991, national chairperson in 1994, and deputy president in 1997. He was deputy president of South Africa from 1999 to 2005 under President Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela's successor. Mbeki dismissed him on 14 June 2005, after his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of making corrupt payments to him in connection with the Arms Deal. Zuma was charged with corruption, and was also acquitted on rape charges in a highly publicised 2006 trial. Nevertheless, he retained the support of a left-wing coalition inside the ANC, which helped him depose Mbeki as ANC president in December 2007 at the ANC's Polokwane elective conference.

He was elected president of South Africa in the 2009 general election and took office on 9 May 2009; the criminal charges against him were formally withdrawn in the same week. As president, Zuma launched the R4-trillion National Infrastructure Plan and signed a controversial nuclear power deal with the Russian government, blocked by the Western Cape High Court in 2017. A former member of the South African Communist Party, he increasingly relied on left-wing populist rhetoric, and in his 2017 State of the Nation address announced a new policy of "radical economic transformation." Few of the attendant policy initiatives were implemented before the end of his presidency, but they included land expropriation without compensation, free higher education, and a series of attempted structural reforms in key sectors, involving restrictions on foreign ownership and more stringent black economic empowerment requirements. In the international arena, Zuma emphasised South-South solidarity and economic diplomacy. The admission of South Africa to the BRICS grouping has been described as a major triumph for Zuma, and he has also been praised for his HIV/AIDS policy.

However, his presidency was beset by controversy, especially during his second term. In 2014, the Public Protector found that Zuma had improperly benefited from state expenditure on upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, and in 2016 the Constitutional Court ruled that Zuma had thereby failed to uphold the Constitution, leading to calls for his resignation and a failed impeachment attempt in the National Assembly. By early 2016, there were also widespread allegations – investigated by the Zondo Commission between 2018 and 2021 – that the Gupta family had acquired immense and corrupt influence over Zuma's administration, amounting to state capture. Several weeks after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to succeed Zuma as ANC president in December 2017, the ANC National Executive Committee recalled Zuma. Facing his fifth vote of no confidence in Parliament, he resigned on 14 February 2018 and was replaced by Ramaphosa the next day.

Shortly after his resignation, on 16 March 2018, the National Prosecuting Authority announced that Zuma would again face prosecution on corruption charges relating to the 1999 Arms Deal. He pleaded not guilty on 26 May 2021, and the trial is set to resume on 11 April 2022. In a separate legal matter, in July 2021 Zuma was imprisoned in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal for contempt of court. After testifying for less than three days at the Zondo Commission into state capture allegations, he refused to return, violating summonses and a Constitutional Court order compelling his testimony. On 29 June 2021, the Constitutional Court sentenced him to fifteen months' imprisonment. He was arrested on 7 July and then released on medical parole two months later, on 5 September. The high court rescinded his parole on 15 December, but he has been granted leave to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Early life and political career

Zuma was born in Nkandla, Natal Province (now part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal),[4]: 1  and as a child often moved around Natal and the suburbs of Durban.[5] His father Nobhekisisa was a policeman, who died when Zuma was five,[6] and his mother Geinamazwi was a domestic worker.[4]: 4 [7] His middle name, Gedleyihlekisa, means "one who smiles while causing you harm" in Zulu.[8] He received no formal schooling.[9]

He has at least three brothers, Michael (died 2021),[10] Joseph,[11] and Khanya,[12] and at least one sister, Velephi (died 2019).[13] Michael Zuma was employed by Khumbula Property Services, a construction company, and in 2011 admitted to using his elder brother Jacob's political status to secure a government contract for the company in exchange for a homestead in Nkandla.[14][15]

Imprisonment and exile

Zuma began engaging in anti-apartheid politics at an early age, and joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1959. He became an active member of Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1962, two years after the ANC was banned.[16] That year, he was arrested with a group of 45 recruits near Zeerust in the western Transvaal, currently part of the North West Province.[17] Convicted of conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government, Zuma was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, which he served on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and other notable ANC leaders also imprisoned during that time.[17] While imprisoned, Zuma was a referee for prisoners' association football games, organised by the prisoners' own governing body, Makana F.A.[18]

After his release from prison, Zuma was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in Natal.[19] He first left South Africa in 1975, and was based first in Swaziland – where he met Thabo Mbeki – and then in Mozambique, where he dealt with the arrival of thousands of exiles seeking military training in the wake of the 1976 Soweto uprising. He became a full member of the ANC National Executive Committee in 1977,[17] and a member of the ANC's Politico-Military Council when it was formed in 1983.[20] He was also Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC in Mozambique, a post he occupied until the signing of the Nkomati Accord between the Mozambican and South African governments in 1984. After signing the Accord, he was appointed as ANC Chief Representative in Mozambique.[17] In December 1986, the South African government requested Mozambican authorities expel six senior members of the ANC, including Zuma. He was forced to leave Mozambique in January 1987 and moved to the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was appointed Head of the ANC's underground structures and shortly afterwards was appointed chief of the intelligence department.[17]

Zuma was also a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP);[16] he joined in 1963, served briefly on the party's Politburo from April 1989,[20] and left in 1990.[21]

Return from exile

When the ANC was unbanned in February 1990, Zuma was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa (on 21 March 1990)[7] to begin the process of negotiations.[19] Later that year, he was elected unopposed as the ANC's Southern Natal Chairperson. Zuma, who was himself Zulu, became known as a leading peace broker in Natal during the political violence of this period, which was concentrated in that province and predominantly concerned conflict between nationalist supporters of the then Xhosa-dominated ANC and supporters of the Zulu-nationalist[22] Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).[7] He is also credited with having expanded the ANC's Zulu support base in Natal.[23] At the ANC's elective conference in July 1991, Zuma was elected Deputy Secretary-General.[17]

In the 1994 general election, South Africa's first democratic election, Zuma stood as the ANC's candidate for the premiership of his newly constituted home province, KwaZulu-Natal.[17] The ANC rose to power in the elections, with Mandela elected president and Mbeki his deputy, but lost KwaZulu-Natal to the IFP. Zuma became the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Economic Affairs and Tourism in KwaZulu-Natal.[24][25] In December 1994, he was elected ANC Provincial Chairperson for KwaZulu-Natal, and at the ANC's 1994 elective conference became National Chairperson, beating Pallo Jordan and Jeff Radebe by a large margin.[26] He held both positions until 1997, having been re-elected Provincial Chairperson in 1996.[17]

Rise to the presidency

Zuma with the Indian Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in Johannesburg, 2004

Deputy presidency

Zuma was elected Deputy President of the ANC at the party's 50th National Conference in Mafikeng in December 1997, and was subsequently appointed Deputy President of South Africa in June 1999, pursuant to the 1999 general election.[17] Serving under newly elected President Mbeki, Deputy President Zuma was chief mediator in the Burundi peace process.[27] There, he worked with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who chaired the Great Lakes Regional Initiative, a grouping of regional presidents overseeing the peace process in Burundi.[28]

Under Bulelani Ngcuka, the NPA opened its investigation into Zuma.

In late 2002, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that Zuma was one of several ANC politicians under investigation by the Scorpions for corruption related to the R30-billion Arms Deal, a major defence procurement package which the government had signed months after Zuma's appointment to the deputy presidency in 1999.[29] In August 2003, however, National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Bulelani Ngcuka told the media that the NPA had a "prima facie case of corruption" against Zuma but had decided not to prosecute on the basis that the case was probably not winnable.[29] A highly public spat ensued between Zuma allies and Ngcuka, who was accused by Mac Maharaj of having been an apartheid spy, an accusation later dismissed by the specially appointed Hefer Commission.[30] Zuma laid a misconduct complaint against Ngcuka with the Public Protector, Lawrence Mushwana, who in May 2004 found that Ngcuka's statement to the media had been "unfair and improper."[31][32]

Mbeki and Zuma were both re-elected in the 2004 general election, but, on 14 June 2005, Mbeki removed Zuma from his post as Deputy President, following the conviction of Zuma's associate Schabir Shaik for making corrupt payments to Zuma in relation to the Arms Deal.[33] Mbeki told a joint sitting of Parliament that "in the interest of the honourable Deputy President, the government, our young democratic system and our country, it would be best to release the honourable Jacob Zuma from his responsibilities."[34] Zuma also resigned as a Member of Parliament.[34]

His successor as Deputy President of South Africa was Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the wife of Bulelani Ngcuka of the NPA. Mlambo-Ngcuka had been Minister of Minerals and Energy since 1999. While her appointment was widely welcomed by the business community,[citation needed] she was booed publicly at many[citation needed] ANC rallies by Zuma supporters, including at a Women's Day event in Utrecht, KwaZulu-Natal.[35]

First corruption indictment

Soon after Zuma's dismissal, the NPA announced its intention to instate formal corruption charges against him.[36] He was served with a provisional indictment on fraud and corruption charges in November 2005, mirroring the indictment earlier served on Shaik.[37] However, the NPA was unprepared to serve the final indictment and filed an application for postponement. On 20 September 2006, the Pietermaritzburg High Court dismissed the application and, when the NPA indicated that it was not prepared to proceed with the trial, struck the matter off the roll.[38]

Rape trial

In December 2005, Zuma was charged with raping a 31-year-old woman, known to the public by the pseudonym Khwezi.[39] The incident allegedly occurred on 2 November 2005 at his home in Forest Town, Johannesburg.[40] When the trial began on 6 March 2006, Zuma pleaded not guilty, claiming that he and Khwezi had had consensual sex.[40]

Khwezi was the daughter of a deceased ANC comrade of Zuma's and an AIDS activist. During the trial, the defence sought and received special permission – which according to the Criminal Procedure Act a judge may grant only in certain circumstances – to question the complainant on her sexual history.[40][41][42] Zuma generated public controversy when he admitted that he had not used a condom while having sex with Khwezi, despite knowing that she was HIV-positive and despite having been, as deputy president, the head of the National AIDS Council and Moral Regeneration Campaign. He told the court that he had taken a shower after the act, incorrectly claiming that doing so reduced the risk of HIV transmission.[43] The popular South African comic strip Madam & Eve and well known political cartoonist Zapiro repeatedly lampooned Zuma for his testimony, and Zuma now always appears under a showerhead in Zapiro cartoons.[44] Also controversial was Zuma's testimony that Khwezi had sent him sexual signals including by her mode of dress (she had worn a kanga on the night in question).[39]

On 8 May 2006, the court acquitted Zuma of rape,[45] although Judge Willem van der Merwe censured him for having had unprotected sex with Khwezi:

It is totally unacceptable that a man should have unprotected sex with any person other than his regular partner and definitely not with a person who to his knowledge is HIV positive. I do not even want to comment on the effect of a shower after having had unprotected sex... [However] it is clear that the probabilities show that the complainant's evidence cannot be accepted. She is a strong person well in control of herself knowing what she wants. She is definitely not that meek, mild and submissive person she was made out to be. On the evidence as a whole it is clear that the accused's version should be believed and accepted. The accused's evidence was also clear and convincing in spite of media efforts to discredit him.[46]

Continued popularity

Although Zuma had been fired as national deputy president, he retained the ANC deputy presidency, and internal factions began to coalesce around him and Mbeki respectively. Between 2005 and 2007, their rivalry deepened into what Susan Booysen has called "no-holds barred, a brutal and all-consuming disagreement between two major ANC groupings."[47][48][49] Although the corruption and rape allegations were considered politically damaging,[43][50] Zuma continued to enjoy considerable support from left wing elements of the ANC, especially the ANC Youth League under Fikile Mbalula, and from the ANC's partners in the Tripartite Alliance, the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).[51] Blade Nzimande of the SACP and Zwelinzima Vavi of COSATU were among Zuma's chief organisers and most vocal supporters (though both came, years later, to recant their support).[52] Famously, both Vavi and Youth League leader Julius Malema later said that they were prepared to "kill for Zuma."[53][54] Nzimande and his SACP comrade Gwede Mantashe warned that the corruption trial would endanger public stability if it went ahead,[53] although there were reports that support for Zuma had caused a rift within the SACP.[55][56] While Zuma's political strength was at least partly based on his relationships within intra-party politics – and Mbeki's lack of popularity with the left wing – he also had a large Zulu support base,[49] and one analyst argued that his supporters' loyalty was partially rooted in a traditionalist Zulu loyalty.[57]

A crowd of supporters and the curious outside the Johannesburg High Court during the rape trial

Zuma's supporters publicly expressed the view that his dismissal and prosecution were the result of a political conspiracy by Mbeki, who they said had sought to oust Zuma to entrench their dominance in the ANC.[47][58] Zuma's court appearances on the corruption charges drew large crowds of supporters (on one estimate, up to 10,000 at a time),[59] who, on one occasion, burned T-shirts with Mbeki's picture on them, earning the condemnation of the ANC leadership.[60] He became known for singing the apartheid-era struggle song Umshini wami (English: Bring Me My Machine Gun) with his supporters during these informal rallies.[61][62] Likewise, during the rape trial, Zuma supporters – sometimes in their thousands – gathered outside the courthouse, addressed among others by Mbalula and Buti Manamela of the SACP Youth League,[63] and sometimes clashing with smaller groups of anti-rape protesters.[45][64][50] Zuma supporters were seen carrying posters questioning Khwezi's integrity, burning photos of her, and on one occasion throwing stones at a woman that they mistook for her.[40][65]

By October 2008, Zuma had been acquitted of rape – viewed as a major political victory for him[45][66] – and was no longer subject to corruption charges. However, this did little to ameliorate the rivalry between Mbeki and Zuma and between their attendant factions. In the words of a Mail & Guardian analysis:

The political damage [of events of recent months] is incalculable, with the ruling African National Congress now an openly divided and faltering movement. This has had a domino effect on the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which have floundered and fractured in the face of damaging charges against a man they ardently backed as the country's next president. The trial has been fought against the backdrop of a bitter succession war between Mbeki and Zuma. Both have been fatally wounded. Mbeki's support in the ANC has crumbled... But even Zuma's most diehard supporters privately acknowledge that he cannot now be president...[59]

Defamation lawsuits

By early 2006, during the rape trial, Zuma and his supporters were complaining that there was a concerted media plot to discredit him and harm his political chances.[67] In March, he appointed a legal team – including former Conservative Party politician Jurg Prinsloo and advocate Wycliffe Mothuloe – to fight his "crucifixion by the media."[40][67] Among the targets of his ire was the Sowetan, whom he had told that the media, at the instruction of Ngcuka of the NPA and former Justice Minister Penuell Maduna, were trying to "crucify" him; the newspaper had printed the interview under the headline "I'm like Christ – Zuma."[67] In June and July 2006, Zuma filed a series of defamation lawsuits against various South African media outlets for publishing content that allegedly besmirched his public profile, in the form of cartoons, commentary, photos and parody pieces. The defendants included the Star (sued for R20 million), Rapport (R10 million), Highveld Stereo (R7 million), the Sunday Times (R6 million), the Citizen (R5 million), the Sunday Sun (R5 million), the Sunday Independent (R5 million), and the Sunday World (R5 million).[68][69] Zuma said in 2005

For a period of five years my person has been subjected to all types of allegations and innuendo, paraded through the media and other corridors of influence without these allegations having being [sic] tested. I have thereby been denied my constitutional right to reply and defend myself.[70]

Later, in December 2008, he also sued Zapiro for R7 million over his controversial rape of Lady Justice cartoon,[53] bringing the total value of the defamation lawsuits to at least R70 million, an unprecedented figure in South African law.[71] Many of the suits were withdrawn or settled out of court – Rapport settled for R50,000 over a defamatory reader's letter, and the British Guardian newspaper also paid Zuma substantial damages over defamatory statements.[72]

Election as ANC president

In terms of party tradition, as the ANC deputy president, Zuma was already in line to succeed Mbeki as head of the party. However, by April 2007[49][73] or sooner,[74] it was clear that Mbeki intended to run for a third term as ANC president – although he was prohibited by the Constitution from standing again for the national presidency, the ANC lacks internal term limits. Zuma gained the support of five of the nine provincial ANC branches when they nominated candidates at their provincial congresses in late 2007.[52][47][75][76][77] He thus became the favourite to win the presidency and hence to become the ANC's presidential candidate in the 2009 elections, which the ANC was extremely likely to win regardless of its candidate, although there were reports that Zuma's support base and left-wing alliances unnerved international and domestic investors.[78][79][80]

On 18 December 2007, at the ANC's 52nd National Conference in Polokwane, Limpopo, Zuma was elected ANC President, comfortably beating Mbeki with 2,329 votes to Mbeki's 1,505.[81] A slate of Zuma-aligned candidates was elected to other top leadership positions at the same conference.

Zuma in June 2008

Second corruption indictment

Just over a week after the Polokwane conference, the NPA reinstated charges against Zuma, serving him an indictment to stand trial on 12 fraud charges, two corruption charges, and one charge each of racketeering and money laundering.[82][83] According to the Constitution, he would have been rendered ineligible for the national presidency had he been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. However, on 12 September 2008, the charges were declared unlawful on a technicality. The presiding judge also expressed a belief that the charges had been the result of a political conspiracy against Zuma.[84]

Although this judgement was later overturned by the appellate court, the Zuma-aligned ANC National Executive, as elected at the Polokwane conference, immediately "recalled" Mbeki, asking him to resign as national president.[85] Mbeki, seeking to avoid a protracted dispute, did so, and he was replaced by newly elected ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who led an interim or caretaker administration while Zuma campaigned for the 2009 elections.[86]

In January 2009, the Supreme Court of Appeal found that the charges against Zuma were not unlawful, contrary to the ruling of the lower court. However, the NPA formally withdrew the charges in the same week that Zuma was inaugurated as national President,[85] citing apparent evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in the so-called spy tapes.[87]

Release of Shaik on parole

In March 2009, Schabir Shaik was controversially released from prison on medical parole, just over two years into his 15-year sentence. Earlier the same week, Zuma had said publicly that as national president he would pardon Shaik on medical grounds.[88] Zuma denied having played any role in Shaik's release.[88] Shaik had applied for a presidential pardon in April 2008, when Mbeki was president, and he continued to lobby for a pardon during Zuma's presidency, saying it was unfair that he had been convicted while neither Zuma nor the implicated arms company had been taken to trial.[89][90]

President of South Africa (2009–2018)

A Cape Town news vendor displays the headline "Zuma Dawn" on 10 May 2009.

The ANC won the national election on 22 April 2009 by a slightly diminished majority of 65.90%, with Zuma having campaigned under the theme "Continuity and Change."[91][92] His appointment was formalised by Parliament on 6 May, and he was sworn in as President of South Africa on 9 May 2009.[85]

According to a survey, in June 2009 more than half of South Africans believed Zuma was doing a good job as president. Around 57% of people polled said they thought Zuma was a capable leader, an increase from 54% in April 2009, before he had been inaugurated, and a substantial increase from 36% in November 2008, two months after Mbeki's recall.[93]

Ngcobo's nomination as Chief Justice

In August 2009, Zuma nominated Sandile Ngcobo as Chief Justice of South Africa.[94] In two joint statements, opposition parties the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Congress of the People (COPE), the Independent Democrats and the Inkatha Freedom Party criticised Zuma, claiming that he had not fulfilled the constitutional requirement of consulting the opposition before making a decision.[95] They also expressed support for Dikgang Moseneke, the Deputy Chief Justice and formerly the favourite for the Chief Justice post.[96] Ngcobo's appointment was confirmed in October 2009.

Failure to disclose assets

As president and therefore a member of cabinet, Zuma was required by the government's ethics code to declare his financial interests within 60 days of taking office. In March 2010, nine months after taking office, South African media reported that he had failed to do so. Opposition parties, and the ANC's Tripartite Alliance partner COSATU, urged Zuma to disclose his interests, and the DA called for an investigation by the Public Protector.[97] ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu explained that Zuma constituted a "special case" because of his "large family," which complicated the process.[98] The ANC distanced itself from Sokutu's statement,[98] and Zuma filed the disclosure later that week.[99]

Zuma at the World Economic Forum on Africa, June 2009

Domestic policy

Zuma was inaugurated at the height of the effects in South Africa of the 2008 global financial crisis, amid South Africa's first recession since the end of apartheid.[100] Upon taking office, he established the National Planning Commission under the office of the Presidency, chaired by Minister Trevor Manuel.[101] The commission developed the National Development Plan, a long-term strategic vision to coordinate government policy for the achievement of central economic and social objectives by 2030. The plan was released in 2011 and adopted by Zuma's cabinet in 2012,[102] although critics say that the plan was not successfully implemented during his presidency.[100][103]

Zuma's critics claim that his policies contributed to an escalation in South Africa's debt burden:[104][105] the debt-to-GDP ratio increased from 28% at the start of his presidency[106] to just over 50% in the week of his resignation.[105] Nedbank, one of South Africa's largest banks, estimates that poor policy decisions, maladministration, and corruption during Zuma's second term alone cost the South African economy R470 billion (US$33.7 billion).[107] He was also criticised for a lack of stability in his cabinet – during his two terms in office, he implemented twelve cabinet reshuffles, and some of his appointments unsettled financial markets.[100][108][109]

Radical economic transformation

A former member of the SACP, Zuma has described himself as a socialist[80] and became president with the support of a left-wing coalition.[80][110] Analysts have also claimed that he has bolstered populism in South Africa.[111][112] From 2017, at the tail-end of his presidency, his rhetoric and policy priorities became markedly further leftist, under what is known as the "radical economic transformation" (RET) programme of the ANC of this period. Zuma announced the new focus on RET during his February 2017 State of the Nation address.[113] Later in 2017, explaining that RET had been adopted as ANC policy and therefore as government policy, Zuma said:

The ANC has defined radical economic transformation as fundamental change in the structures, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership and control of the economy, in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor.[114]

The RET policy was controversial,[115] and some critics claimed that it had popular political appeal but lacked substance.[116][117] Others claimed that it was used to defend "rent-seeking practices"[118] and the influence of the Gupta family on Zuma's administration.[119][120] Closely associated was the concept of white monopoly capital.[117]

Zuma (centre) on a tour of Green Point Stadium in June 2009, in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Social spending

Whereas Mbeki's presidency was associated with an era of HIV/AIDS denialism, Zuma has been praised for his HIV/AIDS policy, which has been credited with increasing life expectancy in South Africa.[100][121][122] Although he had defended Mbeki's policy while deputy president, Zuma, as president, spoke publicly about the dangers of inaction and denialism.[123] On 1 December 2009, in a public address broadcast live on television, he announced the expansion of the country's HIV testing and treatment programme, in line with World Health Organisation guidelines.[124][125][126][127]

South Africa's social grants programme also expanded under Zuma.[100] The proportion of households that received at least one grant increased from 30% in 2003 to 45.5% midway through Zuma's presidency in 2013.[128]

At the beginning of the ANC's 54th National Conference in December 2017, Zuma unilaterally announced that higher education would be free for students in households whose income was less than R350,000 per year, meeting a central demand of the #FeesMustFall student protests.[104][129] The decision was expected to cost R57 billion over the next three years, starting with R12.4 billion in 2018, although Zuma resigned from the presidency before the 2018 budget was finalised.[104][130]

Infrastructure and nuclear deal

In October 2012, Zuma launched the National Infrastructure Plan, which was expected to involve spending of around R4 trillion over the next 15 years, with transport and energy as the biggest expenditure items.[131] Opposition parties welcomed the initiative, although they expressed concerns about the attendant financial burden and about corruption.[132] Zuma chaired the inter-ministerial Presidential Infrastructural Coordinating Committee, and from 2014 chaired the Presidential State-Owned Enterprises Coordinating Council.[133][134]

Amid ongoing electricity generation shortfalls at state energy utility Eskom,[135] Zuma's government launched, in 2011,[136] the Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme. Under the programme, Eskom purchases electricity, from both renewable and non-renewable sources, from private producers.[100][137][138] By 2017, it had attracted more than R190 billion in investment,[114] but its implementation, especially in the renewable energy sector, has received criticism from inside the industry.[139][140]

Zuma greets Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015.

Zuma also expressed support for expanding South Africa's nuclear power programme, and in particular for a proposed nuclear deal with Russia.[141] Agreements between the government and Russian nuclear agency Rosatom were concluded in September 2014, and involved building as many as eight nuclear reactors to generate an additional 9,600 megawatts of power.[142] In 2015, the government said that the programme would have cost about $100 billion (about R1.45 trillion),[141] a cost which many considered unsustainable and which rating agencies later said had contributed to South Africa's credit downgrades.[142] In 2017, adjudicating a legal challenge by environmental activists, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the underlying intergovernmental agreements were unlawful, effectively blocking the deal.[141][142] Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene later speculated that Zuma had fired him in 2015 because he had expressed doubts about the nuclear deal.[143]

Structural reforms

Zuma's administration pursued a number of structural economic policy reforms, but these have been characterised as "investor-unfriendly"[100] and most met significant opposition. For example, the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill, introduced by Zuma's government in 2012, would require local private security companies to be majority-owned by South Africans, in violation of the World Trade Organisation General Agreement on Trade in Services. It also afforded the Minister of Police the power to expropriate fully foreign-owned security companies in the national interest.[100][144] The Democratic Alliance Party, Zuma's opposition, vocally opposed the bill.[145] Others said that it would have negative economic effects,[144][146][147] especially since the European Union and United States, some of whose citizens have substantial stakes in the South African private security market, had raised objections to it, threatening to respond with sanctions and not to renew South Africa's membership of the African Growth and Opportunity Act.[100][145] The bill passed in 2014 but never received assent from Zuma, who said that he was considering the objections.[145] It was signed into law in October 2021 by Zuma's successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa.[148][149]

Attempted reforms to the mining sector also met resistance. In 2014, Parliament passed an amendment to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act in 2014, which allowed government a 20% "free-carry" interest in all new oil and gas ventures and allowed the minister to designate any minerals as "strategic" resources in order to limit exports of that mineral for the purposes of local beneficiation.[100][150] However, Zuma referred the bill back to Parliament in early 2015, facing public concern about the bill's constitutionality, compatibility with South Africa's global trade obligations, economic effects, and threats of a legal challenge from the Chamber of Mines.[100][150] The bill was dropped under Ramaphosa's administration.[151] However, in 2017 Zuma's administration released the cabinet-approved draft Mining Charter, which, among other things, imposed a 1% tax on foreign-owned mines and increased the black economic empowerment ownership requirement in mines from 26% black ownership to 30% black ownership.[152][153] Amid criticism from the mining industry, Zuma said that the charter would accelerate economic growth and transformation.[154] The Chamber of Mines was challenging the implementation of the charter in court when Zuma resigned, but the charter was revised under Ramaphosa.[100][153][155]

Zuma was attentive to land reform issues throughout his second term, but from early 2017 placed particular public emphasis on his support for land expropriation without compensation.[156][157][158][159] He publicly exhorted the ANC parliamentary caucus to partner with the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for the two-thirds majority needed to amend the Constitution to provide for expropriation without compensation.[157]

Also under its RET policy, Zuma's administration pursued consultation processes with labour and business, spearheaded by Ramaphosa (then Deputy President), ahead of the implementation of a national minimum wage.[160] The proposal was approved by cabinet in November 2017,[161] and came into effect after Zuma's resignation.[162]

Foreign policy

Zuma talking with Barack Obama and David Cameron at a G8 African Outreach meeting in 2010.

Shortly before his inauguration, Zuma told the media that there would be "continuity" and the government's foreign policy would not change.[91] However, there is debate about the extent to which Zuma's foreign policy marked a breach from his predecessor Mbeki's. In August 2009, the new government's strategic framework was published, setting out the broad theme of "Pursuing African Advancement and Enhanced Co-operation" for its foreign policy approach. The phrase "African advancement," like Mbeki's "African agenda," refers primarily to the prioritisation of the objectives, especially the developmental objectives, of African and Global South countries; strategic engagements with the countries and international bodies of the North were primarily conceived of as a mode of promoting such objectives.[91] Similarly, a 2011 White Paper on Foreign Relations, titled Building a Better World: The Diplomacy of Ubuntu, stressed Pan-Africanism and South-South solidarity as the central principles of South Africa's foreign policy.[163] These principles had also been advocated by Mbeki's government.[91]

His approach to foreign policy has been described as notably less centralised than Mbeki's, with Zuma himself playing less of an active role than Mbeki had and with increasing leeway given to the newly renamed[164] Department of International Relations and Cooperation.[163] It has also been described as pursuing specific bilateral relations to a greater extent than advocated by Mbeki, who favoured partnerships with strategic global and regional groupings.[163] In particular, the Zuma administration has been associated with economic diplomacy, with the country's developmental and economic agenda conceived of as central in its engagements with foreign countries.[91][163][165] It established the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) to promote developmental partnerships and manage development assistance, although SADPA has been criticised as ineffective.[163] Peter Fabricius has also spoken of a "Zuma doctrine" which advocated a more assertive role, backed with more military power, for South Africa in peacekeeping initiatives in Africa.[166]

Zuma's first state visit as president was to Angola, where he undertook to improve relations with the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos, who had had a tense relationship with Mbeki.[91][163]

BRICS leaders at the fifth BRICS summit, held in Durban in 2013


Foreign policy under the Zuma administration was also characterised by a pivot towards the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and especially China.[100][163][167][168] In August 2010, Zuma undertook his first state visit to China, which upgraded the countries' relations to a formal and comprehensive bilateral partnership under the Beijing Declaration.[163] An Inter-Ministerial Joint Working Group on China-South Africa Cooperation was established in the same year and staffed by cabinet ministers from both countries, and Chinese President Xi Jinping visited South Africa in March 2013, further cementing the relationship.[163] China became South Africa's biggest trade partner during Zuma's presidency.[167]

In December 2010, South Africa became a formal member of BRIC, which was then renamed BRICS,[169] and Zuma attended the group's third summit meeting in Sanya, China in 2011. South Africa's admission followed a concerted campaign for membership and has been described as "a huge diplomatic coup" and "the most important foreign policy achievement of the Zuma administration."[163]


In South Africa's neighbour Zimbabwe, Mbeki had advocated a non-confrontational "quiet diplomacy," as an alternative to the "megaphone diplomacy" used by Western countries who harshly criticised Robert Mugabe's regime.[170] This approach was controversial, with elements of the ruling alliance calling for a tougher stance against Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF.[171][172][173][174] In a 2006 interview with Der Spiegel, Zuma supported quiet diplomacy and said of Mugabe:

The Europeans often ignore the fact that Mugabe is very popular among Africans... The people love him. So how can we condemn him? Many in Africa believe that there is a racist aspect to European and American criticism of Mugabe. Millions of blacks died in Angola, the Republic of Congo and Rwanda. A few whites lost their lives in Zimbabwe, unfortunately, and already the West is bent out of shape.[175]

Zuma and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the 2009 G20 summit

However, by December 2007, he was more forthright in criticising Zimbabwe's leadership, increasingly defining his own policy in contrast to that of Mbeki:

It is even more tragic that other world leaders who witness repression pretend it is not happening, or is exaggerated. When history eventually deals with the dictators, those who stood by and watched should also bear the consequences. A shameful quality of the modern world is to turn away from injustice and ignore the hardships of others.[176]

Zuma was critical of the Zimbabwean government's behaviour during the disputed March 2008 elections in Zimbabwe, calling the delays "suspicious."[177][178] In a press conference on 24 June, he said, "We cannot agree with ZANU-PF. We cannot agree with them on values. We fought for the right of people to vote, we fought for democracy."[179] At an ANC dinner in July, he rebuked Mugabe for refusing to step down,[180] and in November he said that the South African Development Community (SADC) should "force" Zimbabwean leaders to reach agreement if necessary.[181]

In 2010, as president, Zuma called for international sanctions against Mugabe and his allies to be lifted.[182][183] After a March 2013 meeting with Mugabe in Pretoria, he highlighted the commonalities between his and Mugabe's political parties, telling the press, "We share the same values, we went through the same route... We believe that our positions as former liberation movements need to be consolidated."[184] By July 2013, however, relations between Zuma's government and Mugabe's were tense, with Zuma and SADC taking a harder line on the necessity of democratic reforms in Zimbabwe.[185] Yet, according to the Business Day, relations between the countries remained "cordial" throughout Zuma's presidency.[186] Mugabe and Zuma exchanged state visits, including in 2013, 2015, and 2017,[184][187][188] and Mugabe's successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, visited South Africa in December 2017, shortly after his ascension to the presidency.[186]

Stance on foreign intervention in civil conflicts

BRICS leaders at the 2014 G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia

Zuma's administration has been criticised for prevaricating or vacillating in its stance on certain foreign regimes, especially in its attitudes towards international intervention in civil conflicts. In March 2011, South Africa, then a member of the United Nations Security Council, voted in favour of Resolution 1970 and Resolution 1973, imposing sanctions, a no-fly zone, and other measures to suppress the Libyan conflict.[91] When the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) used the resolutions as the basis for military intervention in Libya, South Africa condemned the implementation of the very resolutions it had voted for, alleging that NATO was abusing them.[91][189] Zuma later said that NATO's intervention was responsible for the Libyan refugee crisis.[190] Later in 2011, South Africa abstained – both in the Security Council and in the General Assembly – from voting on a resolution condemning the Syrian government's use of force against civilians. Three months later, however, in February 2012, it voted in favour of a resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.[191] In 2014, Zuma congratulated al-Assad on winning the Syrian presidential election,[192] and in 2016, Nomaindia Mfeketo, the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, visited Damascus to meet with al-Assad on Zuma's behalf.[193]

In another example, when the results of the 2010 presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire led to civil conflict, Zuma first appeared to back Angola in its support for former President Laurent Ggagbo, then switched to supporting the position of the African Union (AU), first for a negotiated settlement and then in favour of Alassane Ouattara. After a March 2011 meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy in Paris, Zuma expressed decisive support for the installation of Ouattara as president.[91]

Attempted withdrawal from the ICC

Zuma and his third wife, Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, during a state visit to the Iranian city of Isfahan in 2016

South Africa hosted the 25th Summit of the AU in Johannesburg from 7 to 15 June 2015, and on 13 June there were reports that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was in attendance.[194] Since 2009, al-Bashir had been a fugitive from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which sought to prosecute him on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. With the approval of Zuma's Cabinet, South Africa and the AU had agreed to grant diplomatic immunity to all delegates attending the summit; however, the Rome Statute, to which South Africa is a signatory, obliged South Africa to arrest al-Bashir.[195] While the matter was being adjudicated by a South African High Court, and just after Judge President Dunstan Mlambo ordered al-Bashir's arrest, the state's lawyer told the court that al-Bashir had left the country.[195] His plane left from Waterkloof Air Force Base, presumably with the government's knowledge[163][196] and reportedly with Zuma's explicit approval.[197]

The government was subsequently reprimanded by the judiciary and the ICC, and many others expressed condemnation.[167][198][199][200] The South African government expressed no remorse, arguing instead that the ICC was used unfairly against African heads of state while failing to hold Western leaders to the same standards.[167][201] In 2016, it announced in New York that it was withdrawing from the ICC. However, in February 2017, the Pretoria High Court ruled that the government had acted unlawfully in attempting to withdraw without parliamentary approval.[202] Thus in December 2017 Zuma's administration tabled the International Crimes Bill, which would repeal the legislation which had incorporated the ICC's Rome Statute into South African law. South Africa would thus withdraw from the ICC, and the new legislation provides for new measures by which the South African government would itself prosecute such international crimes as genocide and crimes against humanity.[198] The preamble to the bill provides the rationale for withdrawal from the ICC:

...South Africa, in exercising its international relations with heads of state of foreign countries, particularly heads of state of foreign countries in which serious conflicts occur or have occurred, is hindered by the Implementation of the Rome Statute... South Africa wishes to give effect to the rule of customary international law which recognises the diplomatic immunity of heads of state in order to effectively promote dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts wherever they may occur, but particularly on the African continent.[203]

Because Zuma resigned only weeks after the bill was introduced, his government was not able to secure its passage, although as of 2022 it remains before Parliament.[198]

A jumbotron shows Zuma entering Mandela's memorial on 10 December 2013.

Mandela's memorial

In a press conference on 5 December 2013, Zuma announced the death of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president.[204][205] The memorial took place on 10 December 2013 at FNB Stadium near Soweto, and, when Zuma entered the stadium and afterwards, parts of the crowd booed him loudly.[206][207] Ramaphosa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for discipline,[208][209] with Ramaphosa telling the crowd in Zulu that the country could address its internal disagreements when foreign dignitaries were not present.[210] Some South African commentators said that the crowd's actions were unexpected,[208][210] and they were widely linked to the ongoing Nkandla scandal[208][211][212] – a draft of the Public Protector's provisional report had been leaked the previous week – or to dissatisfaction with Zuma's administration more generally.[213] Others suggested that the booing reflected frustration with the lack of socioeconomic change under the ANC government since Mandela's presidency,[211] or that it reflected enduring divisions within the ANC (the crowd also chanted Mbeki's name).[210] In a public statement, the ANC chastised those who had booed, saying they had embarrassed the country.[209] The SABC, the public broadcaster, was criticised for having cut away from the booing in its live broadcast of the memorial.[214]


A 2014 billboard in Cape Town responds to Zuma's election promise to create 6 million jobs.

Despite an "Anyone but Zuma" campaign in the run-up to the ANC's 53rd National Conference,[215][216] Zuma was re-elected ANC president on 18 December 2012, beating Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe by a large margin.[217] Although in 2008 he had said that he would prefer to only serve one term as president,[218] Zuma became the ANC's sole presidential candidate in the 2014 national election. In January 2014, after he was heckled at Mandela's memorial, the Sunday Tribune reported that, around November 2013, KwaZulu-Natal branches of the ANC had discussed a proposed resolution asking Zuma not to run for a second term as the country's president.[219] However, ANC Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte dismissed rumours of disunity in the ANC, saying:

The policy is that the president of the ANC is always the candidate for the election. We don't have another candidate and there will be no other candidate. Let us be clear.[220]

The ANC retained its majority in the national election, and on 21 May 2014 the National Assembly elected Zuma to a second term as president.[221]

Nkandla homestead

Public Protector findings

Zuma began his second term amid ongoing controversy over what were officially security upgrades, made with state funds, to his private homestead at Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. The Mail & Guardian had first reported on the improvements in December 2009.[222] With subsequent media reports, the scandal (sometimes known as "Nkandlagate") burgeoned, and by October 2012 the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, was preparing to investigate, pursuant to formal complaints she had received from members of the public.[223] A provisional draft of Madonsela's report, under the working title "Opulence on a Grand Scale," was leaked to the Mail & Guardian in late November 2013.[224] The report said that the cost of the upgrades had escalated to R215 million, with a further R31 million in works outstanding, and that, contrary to the government's claims, many of the state-funded improvements had exceeded Zuma's security needs as president. These included a swimming pool (officially a firepool), cattle kraal, marquee area, and new houses for relatives.[224] It recommended that Zuma should repay the state, and added that Zuma had violated the government's code of ethics on two counts: failing to protect state resources, and misleading Parliament by telling it in November 2012 that the buildings and rooms had been "built by ourselves as family and not by government."[224] The DA was outraged by the report's findings.[225]

Madonsela's final report, titled "Secure in Comfort," was released on 19 March 2014, shortly before Zuma's reelection, and mirrored the provisional report in its substantive aspects.[226] However, further investigations were contradictory or inconclusive, and a parliamentary ad hoc committee exonerated Zuma. Opposition parties continued to demand that Zuma implement the Public Protector's recommendations and repay the state for the upgrades, leading ultimately to a physical struggle in Parliament, during Zuma's 2015 State of the Nation address, between security guards and EFF Members of Parliament, who had continually interrupted Zuma to ask when he was going to "pay back the money."[227][228] The EFF and DA applied for legal recourse to compel Zuma to implement Madonsela's report, and the Constitutional Court found in their favour on 31 March 2016. In EFF v Speaker; DA v Speaker, the full court agreed that Madonsela's report was binding and that Zuma and the National Assembly had failed to uphold the country's Constitution. The court ordered Zuma to repay to the state an amount to be determined by the National Treasury.[229]

In a public address on 1 April, Zuma welcomed the judgment, apologised to the country, and said that he had always accepted the Public Protector's reports were binding.[230] According to legal academic Pierre de Vos, other parts of his statement seriously misinterpreted the judgement,[231] as did the Presidency's claim that Zuma had not been found to have violated his oath of office.[232]

Impeachment vote

The court's finding that Zuma had failed to uphold the Constitution provided possible grounds for impeachment, and opposition leaders Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane promptly called for Zuma's resignation.[233][234] On 5 April 2016, the ANC-controlled Parliament defeated a DA-sponsored motion for impeachment by a significant 143–233 margin.[235] There was some surprise that even Zuma's opponents in the ANC – such as Ramaphosa, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, and Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas – had voted against the motion.[236][237] During the debate before the vote, ANC politicians spoke in Zuma's defence, with Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery arguing that Zuma was not guilty of "serious misconduct."[235] ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu agreed that Zuma's breach of the Constitution was not "serious" enough to warrant impeachment,[238] and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, speaking for the party's Top Six leaders, said that the move to impeach Zuma was "rather an over-exaggeration."[239] The ANC Women's League had already released a statement expressing its "unshaken" faith in Zuma.[240][241]

Zuma and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in South Africa in 2016


On 12 April 2016, journalist Max du Preez observed that, following the Nkandla judgement and unrelated allegations of state capture (see below), "the balance of power has turned irrevocably against Zuma,"[242] and the backlash was serious enough that many commentators thought it possible that Zuma would be deposed (or "recalled") at a later date by the ANC itself.[243][244][245] ANC partner the SACP expressed dissatisfaction with how Zuma and the ANC had handled the Nkandla saga,[246] and COPE announced that it would boycott parliamentary proceedings in protest of the ANC caucus's refusal to take action against Zuma.[247] Prominent civil society figures, including retired judge Zak Yacoob, former COSATU leader Zwelinzima Vavi, and the South African Council of Churches, called for Zuma to resign.[248][249] More strikingly, however, despite the ANC's support for Zuma in the impeachment vote, public criticism of Zuma also emanated from inside the ANC, to the disapproval of some Zuma allies.[250][251] Some ANC members booed Zuma at his next public appearance,[252] and a series of senior ANC and struggle stalwarts publicly called for his resignation, including Ahmed Kathrada, Ronnie Kasrils, Trevor Manuel, and Cheryl Carolus.[253][254][249] The Gauteng ANC, led by noted Zuma critic Paul Mashatile, formally resolved that Zuma should resign;[255][256] doubts were raised about Zuma's leadership in other branches, even within his former strongholds like Limpopo;[250] and an internal ANC memorandum sent by party veterans to the Top Six allegedly demanded Zuma's recall and compared him to detested apartheid-era State President P. W. Botha.[257]

Dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene

On 9 December 2015, Zuma replaced Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene with the little-known backbencher Des van Rooyen.[258] Opposition parties angrily alleged that Nene was fired because he had vetoed or questioned suspect or controversial uses of public funds, including the proposed nuclear deal with Russia (see above), the proposed purchase of a multi-million-rand presidential private jet, and various proposals at the state-owned airline, South African Airways (SAA).[258][259][260][261][262] Nene was known to have clashed with SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni over his rejection of a board proposal to restructure a re-fleeting agreement with Airbus, as well as over a proposal, reportedly from Zuma himself, to initiate a direct SAA flight between South Africa and Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.[258][260][263][264]

The reaction of international markets to the reshuffle was strongly negative, and a senior Treasury official later told the Zondo Commission that Nene's dismissal had negatively affected the South African economy both in the immediate term and in the long term.[265] The value of the rand fell dramatically, from R14.96 to the US dollar on 8 December to R15.38, a record low, on 10 December.[266][267] The JSE fell by an estimated R180 billion over the same period,[268] and the banking index fell by nearly 19 per cent.[269] S&P had recently downgraded South Africa's credit rating to BBB, the lowest possible investment-grade rating, with a "negative" outlook, and there were fears that the reshuffle would trigger a further downgrade to junk status.[267] Indeed, an S&P director warned that further such "policy mistakes" could cause a downgrade to junk status.[264]

Over the weekend, Zuma reportedly received submissions from business, labour, and ANC members; with COSATU and SACP leaders, and a delegation of senior ANC members, reportedly advising Zuma to reverse his decision.[270][271] Indeed, there were rumours that Deputy President Ramaphosa, who was absent from an ANC gala on Saturday, would resign if the decision was not reversed,[270] although Ramaphosa denied the rumours.[271][272] On Sunday 13 December, Zuma announced that van Rooyen would be replaced, after only four days in office, by former minister of finance Pravin Gordhan.[273] Commentators said that the saga was a clear miscalculation on Zuma's part and had weakened him politically,[269] with the Daily Maverick printing that Zuma had been "exposed as a weak leader who acted recklessly without proper advice, appointing a rookie to act as a political handyman."[270]

In February 2016, media reports alleged that two of van Rooyen's senior advisers had links to, or had even been appointed by, the Gupta family. This contributed to concerns that Nene's dismissal had been an attempt to facilitate state capture by Zuma's political and business associates.[274][275]

Two EFF members carry a placard depicting Atul Gupta at a Zuma Must Fall protest in Cape Town, April 2017.

State capture allegations

Relationship with the Gupta family

Waterkloof Air Force Base landing

Zuma's close and allegedly corrupt relationship with the Gupta family, also known ANC donors,[276] became a major source of discontent both within the ANC[277] and among the South African public.[278][279][280] This relationship received widespread public attention as early as April 2013, when the media reported that the Guptas had landed an Airbus A330 at Waterkloof Air Force Base without formal authorisation. The plane was carrying guests from India to a wedding of a Gupta relative in South Africa, and the guests allegedly received police escorts.[281][282] ANC politicians such as Jeff Radebe joined opposition parties in condemning the unauthorised landing.[281][283] The political influence of the Guptas was one issue thought to have motivated a wave of anti-government protests in October 2015,[278] and, at Zuma's February 2016 State of the Nation address, the EFF coined the phrase "Zupta", a portmanteau of "Zuma" and "Gupta", when they disrupted the event by repeatedly chanting "Zupta must fall."[284][285]

COSATU organised a protest against state capture in Cape Town on 27 September 2017.
Alleged control of cabinet appointments

In early March 2016, Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas alleged that, in November 2015, shortly before Nene's dismissal, the Guptas had offered him the position of Finance Minister.[262] The English Financial Times broke the story on 8 March 2016 in a comprehensive piece about the Guptas' political influence.[286][287] The next week, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor claimed in a Facebook post that the Guptas had also offered her a cabinet position while she was visiting their house in Saxonwold, Johannesburg – specifically, she said she was offered Barbara Hogan's job as Minister of Public Enterprises.[288][289] She claimed that Zuma had been in another room of the house at the time of the offer.[290] The Guptas denied the allegations,[262] as did Zuma, who reminded Parliament that only he had the power to appoint ministers.[291] He also said he did not recall ever meeting Mentor.[291] Shortly thereafter, the former director-general of Government Communication and Information System, Themba Maseko, told the Sunday Times that Zuma had asked him to "help" the Guptas and that the Guptas had subsequently asked him to channel government advertising tenders to their newspaper, the New Age.[292]

The allegations led to renewed allegations of state capture of the Zuma administration by the Gupta family.[291][293] Mantashe announced that the ANC would conduct an internal investigation, which made no substantive findings.[294] The SACP called for a public inquiry, and in May a group of 45 former director-generals of government departments wrote a letter to Zuma, Ramaphosa, and two ministers to make the same request.[295]

Gupta Leaks

In early 2017, the Daily Maverick and investigative journalism unit amaBhungane (and later News24), through human rights lawyer Brian Currin and his anonymous clients, gained access to a large cache of between 100,000 and 200,000 emails and other documents from inside the Guptas' businesses.[296][297] From mid-2017 well into 2018, the leaks were used as evidence for a large series of articles about corrupt or otherwise improper relationships between the Guptas and ANC politicians, including Zuma. They are now in the possession of the Zondo Commission.[296]

Public Protector findings

In mid-March 2016, Public Protector Madonsela launched an investigation into state capture after receiving formal complaints from members of the public and the leader of the opposition.[294][298] The report of the investigation, titled "State of Capture," was released in November 2017, and found prima facie evidence implicating Zuma and other state officials in various improprieties, including improper relationships with the Gupta family. The report also recommended that Zuma should appoint a full commission of inquiry into state capture.[299] Zuma applied to have Madonsela's report overturned in the high court, which dismissed his application and ordered him to appoint a commission. In January 2018, just over a month before he resigned, he established the Zondo Commission.[300][301]

Dismissal of Pravin Gordhan

In the early hours of 31 March 2017, the Presidency announced a major cabinet reshuffle, affecting ten ministers – five of whom were dismissed – and ten deputy ministers. Most notably, respected Finance Minister Gordhan was replaced by Malusi Gigaba; his deputy Jonas, who had alleged corruption by the Guptas a year earlier, was also fired.[302] Senior ANC leaders, including Deputy President Ramaphosa, severely criticised the reshuffle.[303] The SACP called for Zuma's resignation, and its Second Deputy General Secretary, Solly Mapaila, called for the ANC itself to act to remove Zuma on a motion of no confidence.[304] The response of the markets was also poor. The value of the rand fell,[303][305] and the yield on the government's benchmark R186 bond surged, from 8.355% to 8.84%.[306] On 3 April, S&P downgraded South Africa's sovereign credit rating to BB+, a speculative-grade or "junk status" rating.[306] On 7 April, another of the Big Three credit rating firms, Fitch, followed suit.[307]

Insulting posters at the Zuma Must Fall protest in Cape Town, 7 April 2017
A 360° photograph of the protests in front of the Houses of Parliament

Mounting opposition

Zuma Must Fall

On 7 April 2017, protests against Zuma and his government took place in several of South Africa's major cities, with the March reshuffle and corruption cited as central motivating factors.[308] The largest marches were at the Union Buildings in Pretoria (attended by about 25,000 people)[309] and at the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town (attended by between 12,000 and 20,000 people).[309][310] Between 2,000 and 3,000 pro-Zuma counter-protesters gathered in the area around the ANC's headquarters at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.[309] Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula estimated that about 60,000 people had attended the protests nationwide.[310]

Another march on the Union Buildings on 12 April, Zuma's birthday, was organised by a coalition of seven opposition parties, including the DA and EFF, and also attracted tens of thousands of protesters – the Mail & Guardian said that it was "possibly the largest march in post-apartheid history."[308][311]

Motions of no confidence

During Zuma's presidency, no fewer than eight motions of no confidence were tabled against him in the National Assembly. Four of the motions, all between March 2015 and August 2017, went to a vote, in which they failed to receive the required majority (201 votes in the 400-seat assembly) and were defeated. Below is a list of the motions proposed:

Motions of no confidence proposed against President Jacob Zuma
Date Type Sponsor Result
18 March 2010 Motion COPE Amended by the ANC to a motion of confidence, which passed 242–83, with 6 abstentions.[312]
November 2012 Motion DA Not scheduled, leading to a legal battle.[313]
March 2015 Motion Agang SA Withdrawn, on the basis that Speaker Baleka Mbete refused to recuse herself from presiding over the debate.[314]
17 March 2015 Vote DA Defeated 113–211, with 8 abstentions.[312]
1 March 2016 Vote DA Defeated 99–225, with 22 abstentions, after some opposition politicians boycotted the vote.[312]
10 November 2016 Vote DA Defeated 126–214, 1 abstention.[315]
9 August 2017 Vote DA Defeated 177–198, 9 abstentions.[316]
February 2018 Motion EFF Scheduled for debate on 15 February, but fell away after Zuma's resignation.[317]

The DA also attempted unsuccessfully to impeach Zuma (formally a removal from office under Section 89 of the Constitution) in April 2016 after the EFF v Speaker judgement in the Constitutional Court (see above).

The August 2017 motion of no confidence was notable because it was the first allowed to proceed by secret ballot. The motion received the most support of any such motion during Zuma's presidency, with 177 votes in favour; although the ANC had 249 MPs, only 198 MPs voted against the motion.[318] Political analyst Stephen Grootes told the Guardian that between 25 and 30 ANC MPs appeared to have defied the ANC's instruction to vote against the motion,[316] and the Mail & Guardian guessed that 26 MPs had voted in favour while nine abstained.[318]

Succession as ANC president

Zuma with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in March 2017

From 2015, Zuma was understood to favour his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to succeed him as ANC president and therefore, presumptively, as national president. His critics claimed that he would use his relationship with Dlamini-Zuma to retain control of the ANC and the state, and thus to avoid prosecution on corruption charges.[319][320][321] She campaigned on a platform of economic transformation – so that the pro-Dlamini-Zuma faction became known as the RET faction – while her challenger, Deputy President Ramaphosa, emphasised anti-corruption.[322][323] On 18 December 2017, at the ANC's 54th National Conference, Ramaphosa narrowly beat Dlamini-Zuma in a vote and succeeded Zuma as ANC president.[324]


Once Ramaphosa replaced Zuma as ANC president, there was growing pressure for the latter to resign from the national presidency. On 6 February 2018, Zuma's annual State of the Nation Address, scheduled for 8 February, was postponed indefinitely "to create room for establishing a much more conducive political atmosphere."[325] The following week, Ramaphosa and Zuma spent almost five days in talks. On Monday 12 December, when it became clear that the negotiations had failed, the ANC National Executive Committee convened an emergency meeting near Pretoria, and, after nearly ten hours of debate, decided that Zuma should be "recalled" by the party if he did not resign voluntarily. Ramaphosa and another senior official reportedly drove to Zuma's home just after midnight to deliver the ultimatum, but Zuma refused, insisting on a three-month notice period or transition period before leaving office.[326] On 13 December, the National Executive Committee publicly announced its intention to recall Zuma.[327] As a party-political body, it formally lacked the authority to remove sitting presidents – but, if Zuma did not resign at its request, it could instruct the ANC caucus, which controlled Parliament, to remove him through a motion of no confidence. Indeed, the party planned to remove him in this way if he did not resign by midnight on Wednesday.[328]

Wednesday 14 February began with a dawn police raid at the Johannesburg home of the Gupta family, which the Hawks said was related to an investigation into state capture.[329] Mid-afternoon, Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of the National Assembly, announced that the EFF's motion of no confidence in Zuma had been moved forward in the parliamentary schedule, and that it would now be voted on the following day instead of on 22 February.[330] She told journalists that "the recall, most definitely official, is now being implemented by this institution [Parliament]."[328] The ANC announced that it planned to support the opposition's motion, which would ensure its passage.[331] Shortly afterwards, Zuma gave a long live television interview on SABC, arguing that he had done nothing wrong and had not been given reasons for his recall.[328][329] He said that he disagreed with the ANC's decision and was being "victimised."[332] He also said that, if he was dismissed, the ANC could be "plunged in a crisis that I’m sure my comrade leaders will regret."[332] According to a later report by City Press, during this period elements of the South African National Defence Force and State Security Agency were unsuccessfully lobbied to launch a revolt to prevent Zuma's removal.[333]

On the same day, 14 February 2018, in a live televised address just before 11 p.m., Zuma announced his resignation with immediate effect.[328][334] In his speech, he said that he accepted the ANC's decision, but had asked its leadership to "articulate my transgressions and the reason for its immediate instruction that I vacate office," given that he had earlier had an agreement with the party that if he resigned it would be after "a period of transition."[335] He said:

Make no mistake, no leader should stay beyond the time determined by the people they serve... No life should be lost in my name and also the ANC should never be divided in my name... I have therefore come to the decision to resign as President of the Republic with immediate effect. Even though I disagree with the decision of the leadership of my organisation, I have always been a disciplined member of the ANC. As I leave I will continue to serve the people of South Africa as well as the ANC, the organisation I have served all my life. I will dedicate all of my energy to work towards the attainment of the policies of our organisation, in particular the radical economic transformation agenda.[335]


Commemorative ANC cloth from Zuma's 2009 campaign and inauguration

The week after his resignation, Zuma attended a farewell cocktail party in his honour, hosted by President Ramaphosa at Tuynhuys in Cape Town and attended by other members of cabinet.[336] Although former presidents are invited to all State of the Nation addresses, Zuma did not attend Ramaphosa's addresses in 2018, 2019, or 2020.[337]

Third corruption indictment

On 16 March 2018, just over a month after Zuma resigned from the presidency, the NPA announced that he would again face prosecution on the same 16 criminal charges he was indicted on in 2006: 12 charges of fraud, two of corruption, and one each of racketeering and money laundering, all related to the 1999 Arms Deal and to Zuma's relationship with Schabir Shaik.[338] The case is enrolled in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Zuma pleaded not guilty when the trial began on 26 May 2021,[339] and the trial is set to resume on 11 April 2022.[340]

Zondo Commission


Zuma's third day of testimony to the Zondo Commission, 17 July 2019

At the instruction of the Public Protector and high court, in January 2018 Zuma had established the Zondo Commission to investigate fraud, corruption, and state capture in the public sector in South Africa. Zuma was scheduled to testify before the commission for five days in mid-July 2019, and on Monday 15 July he opened his testimony by claiming that the commission was part of a decades-long "character assassination"[341] conspiracy against him.[342][343] He denied the veracity of several other witnesses' testimony, and questioned the appropriateness of the phrase "state capture," which he said was used to discredit him – if the whole state had truly been captured, he said, the commission should investigate the judiciary and Parliament as well as the executive branch of government.[344] After the hearings, Zuma addressed supporters who gathered outside the commission's offices in Johannesburg.[341][345]

Before the end of the third day of testimony on Wednesday 17 July, chairperson Raymond Zondo adjourned proceedings so that the commission could meet with Zuma and his lawyers in order to discuss Zuma's grievances about his treatment by the commission.[346] On the morning of Friday 19 July, his lawyer announced that Zuma would "take no further part" in the commission's proceedings and would consider court action. Zuma felt that he had been treated like an accused criminal rather than as a witness and that he had been relentlessly cross-examined – though the head of the commission's legal team pointed out that his cross-examination had not yet begun.[343] Later in the day, Zondo announced that they had come to an agreement: the commission had acquiesced to Zuma's demand to furnish him with specific allegations in advance, and Zuma would provide written statements in response.[347]

Contempt of court

Zuma clashed with the Zondo Commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

However, in future months, Zuma appeared reluctant to cooperate with the commission, and he provided no further testimony before it. Zuma had been scheduled to resume testifying in the week of 21 September 2020, but his legal team wrote to the commission saying that he would not appear – for medical reasons, because he was seeking legal advice about his testimony, and because he was preparing for his criminal trial on corruption charges.[348] Zondo rescheduled Zuma's testimony to the week of 16 November,[348] and issued a summons for that date.[349]

In November, Zuma applied to have Zondo recuse himself from proceedings. Zuma claimed that he and Zondo were friends, which Zondo denied,[350] and that there was a conflict of interest arising from their "historical family relations."[351] On the latter point, Zondo conceded that he had had a child with the sister of Zuma's third wife, Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, but pointed out that their relationship had ended in the 1990s, before Zuma and Madiba-Zuma met.[351] On Thursday 19 November, Zondo dismissed Zuma's application for his refusal. The commission adjourned for a tea break and when it returned to hear Zuma's testimony, Zondo announced that Zuma had left without being excused.[352][353] He did not return on 20 November.

In early December, the commission issued summonses for Zuma to appear before it in the weeks of 18 January and 15 February 2021. It also applied to the Constitutional Court for an order compelling Zuma to comply with the summonses, and for an order stipulating that Zuma's departure on 19 November and non-appearance on 20 November had been unlawful.[354] Days before the first scheduled appearance, Zuma's lawyers wrote to the commission informing it that Zuma would not attend.[355] On 28 January, the Constitutional Court ordered Zuma to comply with the second summons and to testify before the commission in February.[356][357] In February, Zuma's lawyers again sent a letter announcing that Zuma would not appear to testify.[358]

By then, the commission had already laid criminal charges against Zuma for earlier breach of summons in terms of the Commissions Act.[358] However, in March, it approached the Constitutional Court directly and asked the court to sentence Zuma to two years' imprisonment for contempt of court.[359] Zuma refused to participate in the contempt proceedings, although he complained of bias, and on 29 June 2021 he was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment.[360]

Arrest and imprisonment

Zuma was given until 4 July to hand himself in, after which the police would have until 7 July to arrest him forcibly.[361] The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association warned that his arrest would destabilise the country,[362] and hundreds of supporters gathered outside his Nkandla residence, threatening violence if he was detained.[361][363] Zuma told the press that he had been sentenced without trial, saying that it might "remind our people of the apartheid days," and told a rally in Nkandla:

I fought for freedom. I was fighting for these very rights. No one will take my rights away. Even the dead that I fought against during the liberation struggle will turn in their graves.[363]

On 7 July, with the deadline nearing and an outstanding court application by Zuma to halt the arrest, it was unclear whether the South African Police Service planned to arrest him.[361] 40 minutes before the midnight deadline, however, Zuma handed himself over and was taken to the Estcourt Correctional Centre.[363][364] On 9 July, the Pietermaritzburg High Court dismissed Zuma's application to have the arrest overturned, citing a lack of evidence for the medical grounds raised by Zuma.[365] There was a severe outbreak of civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal on the same day, which was linked to Zuma's detention.[366][367] The Constitutional Court subsequently heard an urgent rescission application by Zuma, reserving judgement on 12 July,[368] but ultimately upheld its earlier sentence in a 7–2 ruling.[369]

On 22 July, Zuma was granted one day's compassionate leave to attend the funeral of his brother Michael.[370][371] On 6 August, the Department of Correctional Services reported that he had been admitted to hospital for routine medical observation following a routine health check.[372] He underwent surgery for an unspecified condition on 14 August and had to remain hospitalised in order to undergo further medical procedures.[373] On 5 September, he was released on medical parole to receive medical care at home, instead of in hospital, in order to complete the rest of his sentence at his Nkandla home, under supervision in the community corrections system.[374][375]

However, the decision was challenged in court by the Democratic Alliance, the Helen Suzman Foundation, and Afriforum. On 15 December 2021, high court judge Keoagile Matojane set aside the parole decision, declaring it unlawful and saying that it undermined respect for the judiciary, the rule of law, and the Constitution. The Medical Parole Advisory Board had advised against parole, but it had been granted by the Correctional Services Commissioner, Arthur Fraser, who had thereby effectively and improperly overruled the board.[376][377] Zuma was ordered to return to prison, with his time on parole not counted towards his sentence.[376] Zuma's lawyers immediately announced his intention to appeal the high court's decision,[376] and he was granted leave to do so on 21 December.[375]

Personality and public image

Zuma's trademark laugh, 2009

Zuma's "charisma and affable personality"[378] is at the centre of his public image, and is thought to be responsible for much of his political popularity.[379][380][381][382] His charisma is most fully on display at his political rallies, which sociologist Roger Southall describes as leaden with "political theatre" and "popular idiom,"[383] especially through song his longstanding trademark is Umkhonto we Sizwe anthem Umshini wam' (English: Bring Me My Machine Gun), but he also became associated with Yinde lendlela (English: It's a Long Journey) after the ANC's Mangaung conference in 2012.[384][385][386] Journalist Alec Russell wrote in 2009, "When Zuma gets in front of these crowds, he is more than a politician: briefly, he becomes something closer to a revivalist preacher, or the leader of a cult."[387]

Zuma is also known for his sense of humour,[379] and, to the disapproval of opposition politicians, as president he frequently joked during his addresses to Parliament, including by mocking the Democratic Alliance's fixation on the Nkandla scandal.[388][389][390][391] On 1 April 2015, his office released a statement about new cabinet appointments which was later revealed as an April Fools' Day prank on the media.[392] Some have said that one factor in Zuma's popularity is what Southall calls "the politics of charismatic buffoonery."[383] In one phrase, his public persona has been "constructed as sometimes slightly gormless, but warm and accessible."[393] Mondli Makhanya writes:

Zuma’s other great strength was that he did not mind looking stupid. And so he sang and danced at will. Whereas other politicians use this as an election gimmick, Zuma did it all the time and genuinely seemed to enjoy it. In Parliament and on public platforms he laughed and giggled as if he had inhaled a potent hallucinogenic. The more stupid he looked, the more it seemed to endear him to the people.[378]

Zuma embraces South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in 2011.

As a politician, he was viewed as an accessible figure – "a simple man, a man of the people,"[383] and a good listener.[378][394][393] In a 2009 interview, Zuma said that apartheid-era ANC president Oliver Tambo inspired his public posture:

While Tambo was a great thinker, he was very simple. There is nothing he did not do... When people came to him he attended to them. He would even attend to somebody who comes to raise the issue of the shoe that doesn’t have shoelaces, he would ensure that the shoelaces were found... I am not a great man. I am a man of the people. I believe in people and I think that the people are everything. Once there is disconnection with the people you have problems.[395]

His connection to the "grassroots"[396] is at least partly due to his embrace of his rural background, of his ethnic heritage, and of his lack of formal education.[397] These aspects of his persona are frequently contrasted with the perceived intellectualism and Pan-Africanism of the ANC under Zuma's successor, Thabo Mbeki.[381][387][393][398] Especially in combination with his penchant for struggle songs and the toyi-toyi, Zuma's embrace of his biographical background has been described as tapping into "popular understandings, memories, and meanings of racial oppression, racialised dispossession, and struggles of freedom" during apartheid and thereafter.[383][399][387] On the ethnic front, he often presents himself as a Zulu traditionalist, and has flirted with social conservatism. He is a polygamist, in line with Zulu tradition, and at a 2006 rally in KwaZulu-Natal, for example, he publicly spoke against same-sex marriage.[400] He was frequently photographed wearing traditional Zulu attire at cultural events,[401] and he appears less comfortable speaking in English than in his native Zulu,[402][403] in which he is known for his "linguistic flair."[404][383][405]

Zuma in 2009

On the other hand, however, some commentators have claimed that his broad appeal arises from "the populist's trait of sometimes saying what his audiences want to hear,"[387] and he has frequently been called a political "chameleon," with little known about what political principles and ideologies he subscribes to personally.[406][407][394][408] This characterisation was made as early as 2007, when, ahead of the ANC's Polokwane conference, the Financial Mail ran the first of two stories on Zuma, famously published under the headline "Be Afraid."[394][409] The articles criticised Zuma as an "opportunist"[410] and concluded, in the paraphrase of New York Times journalist Barry Bearak, that he was "far more interested in holding power than in making policy, long on charm if short on intellect."[411]

During his post-presidency legal battles, when Zuma publicly claimed that he was being vilified under a conspiracy, William Gumede and others criticised what they called his "narcissism."[412][413][414]


Alleged abuses by bodyguards

In 2010, Zuma's bodyguards were implicated in multiple incidents involving members of the public and journalists.

In February, a Cape Town student, Chumani Maxwele, was detained by police after allegedly showing Zuma's motorcade a "rude gesture". Maxwele, an active ANC member,[415] was released after 24 hours, having provided a written apology to police, which he later claimed was coerced. He also claimed that his home had been raided by plain-clothes policemen, and that he had been forced into the vehicle at gunpoint. Maxwele later instituted legal action against the police,[416] and a complaint was filed on his behalf to the Human Rights Commission.[417] The incident led to a heated dispute when it was discussed in Parliament.[418]

In March, journalist Tshepo Lesole was forced to delete pictures of Zuma's convoy from his camera by police, and two photographers were detained by police when photographing Zuma's Johannesburg home.[419][420] Sky News reporter Emma Hurd claimed she had been pushed, manhandled and "groped" by Zuma's bodyguards in 2009.[421]

"Shoot the Boer" song

In January 2012, Zuma gave a speech at the ANC Centennial 2012 celebrations in Bloemfontein and, afterwards, sang the controversial song "Dubul' ibhunu" ("Shoot the Boer").[422][423]

"The Spear" painting

In 2012, Zuma was featured in a satirical painting by Cape Town-based artist Brett Murray, who depicted him in his painting The Spear, with his genitals exposed. The ANC responded by threatening court action against the gallery showing the painting, and further demanding that the image should be removed from online sources. The subsequent aggressive sharing of the image through social networks can be considered a form of the Streisand effect.[424][425] On 22 May 2012, the painting was vandalised while it was hanging in an art gallery in Johannesburg. The face and genitals of Zuma were painted over.[426]

Panama Papers revelations

Clive Khulubuse Zuma, the nephew of Jacob Zuma, was named in the Panama Papers[427] as a result of his links to oilfields in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Shortly after president Jacob Zuma met with DRC president Joseph Kabila, Khulubuse Zuma's company Caprikat Limited secured a 100-billion rand oil deal in the DRC.[428][320][429]

Personal life

Zuma and his third wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in London, 2010
Zuma and his second wife Nompumelelo Ntuli with Indian President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi, 2012


Zuma is a polygamist, in line with traditional Zulu culture, and has been married six times. In 2012 the Daily Telegraph estimated he had 20 children,[430] and in 2014 the Guardian reported he had 21,[431] some of whom were born out of wedlock. In an interview, he said:

There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children that they hide so as to pretend they're monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I'm proud of my children.[432]

Less than a year into Zuma's presidency in March 2010, responding to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance (DA), Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane reported that the state spousal support budget was about R15.52 million, close to double the budget in the previous year when Kgalema Motlanthe had been president.[433] Opposition leader Helen Zille expressed disapproval.[434] In subsequent years, Zuma's spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, stressed that South Africa did not have a formal office of the first lady, and that the state did not support the President's wives or children except insofar as it funded some travel expenses and spousal participation at official functions.[435] Yet in June 2012, there were reports that activists in the Eastern Cape branch of the ANC were backing a proposal that only Zuma's first wife should receive state support.[430]

Wives and children

His wives are:

Gertrude Sizakele Khumalo, 1973–present
Zuma met Khumalo (born 2 March 1940) in 1959 and they married shortly after his release from prison in 1973.[436] They have no children together.
Kate Mantsho, 1976–2000
He married Mantsho (born 2 September 1956 in Mozambique) in 1976 while he was in exile in Mozambique.[436] She committed suicide on 8 December 2000 and is buried in Heroes' Acre at Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg.[437] He has five children with her: Mxolisi Saady (born 1980), twins Duduzile and Duduzane (born 1984), Phumzile (born 1989), and Nhlakanipho Vusi (born 1993, died 1 July 2018).[438][439]
Nkosazana Dlamini, c. 1982–1998
He met Dlamini (born 27 January 1949), an ANC politician and cabinet minister, while he was in exile in Swaziland,[440] but the date of their marriage is not certain: reported dates include 1982[440] and 1984.[441] They divorced in June 1998.[432] They have four daughters: Msholozi (born 1982), Gugulethu (born 1985), Nokuthula Nomaqhawe, also known as Thuli (born 1987), and Thuthukile (born 1989).[436][439]
Nompumelelo Ntuli, 2008–present
He married Ntuli (born 1975) on 5 January 2008.[442] From 2014, she was investigated by police on the allegation that she had attempted to kill Zuma with poisoned tea.[443] She denied the allegation and the NPA declined to prosecute her, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence.[436][440] As of 2022, she and Zuma are reportedly estranged.[440][444] They have three children: Thandisiwe (born 2002), Sinqobile (born 2006), and Manqoba Kholwani (born 2010).[445][443]
Thobeka Stacie Mabhija, 2010–present
Zuma married Mabhija, also known as Thobeka Madiba (born 1973), on 4 January 2010.[446][447] She and Zuma are reportedly estranged,[436][440] and in 2020 she sued Zuma for spousal maintenance.[440][448] They have three children.[445]
Gloria Bongekile Ngema, 2012–present
In April 2012, Zuma married Ngema (born 1965), with whom he already had a son, Sinqumo (born c. 2009).[449][450] In 2017, emails leaked as part of the so-called #GuptaLeaks suggested that the Gupta family had partially funded the purchase of Ngema's R5.4-million house in Waterkloof Ridge, Pretoria.[440]

Zuma has also been engaged to other women, including, from 2002, Princess Sebentile Dlamini, a niece of Swazi King Mswati III. Zuma paid the traditional lobola in cattle,[436][451] but, as of 2022, they have not married, although the Citizen reported in 2017 that they were still engaged.[452] He was also engaged to Nonkanyiso Conco (born 16 October 1993),[453][454] a cast member on Real Housewives of Durban. They are no longer engaged and are reportedly estranged,[440] but have a child together, Sakh’muzi (born 12 April 2018).[455][456]

Zuma's firstborn child, Mziwoxolo Edward, was born 1977 to Minah Shongwe, sister of Judge Jeremiah Shongwe, who asked to be recused from Zuma's rape trial because of the relationship.[457] He also has two daughters, born 1998 and 2002, with Pietermaritzburg businessman Nonkululeko (sometimes also spelled Nonkwaleko) Mhlongo,[439][458] whom he met in 1990 and to whom he was rumoured to be engaged.[440][459] In March 2017, a covert recording was leaked in which Mhlongo allegedly outlined a plan for defrauding the KwaZulu-Natal government, apparently with Zuma's knowledge.[460] His other children include a daughter, Thandekile Matina, born 8 October 2009 to Sonono Khoza, the daughter of soccer administrator Irvin Khoza,[461] and, according to media reports, three children to a woman from Johannesburg and one to a woman from Richard's Bay.[439][445]

2009 "love-child"

In January 2010, the Sunday Times reported that Khoza had given birth to Zuma's daughter in 2009,[461][462] and Zuma ultimately confirmed that he had paid inhlawulo, acknowledging paternity, and appealed for privacy.[463] Opposition parties criticised Zuma's actions. Both the African Christian Democratic Party and the DA said that it undermined the government's HIV/AIDS prevention programme, which promoted safe sex and marital fidelity.[464] DA leader Zille also argued that it was not a purely private matter, since elected public officials had to embody the principles and values for which they stood.[465] The Congress of the People said that Zuma could no longer use African cultural practices to justify his "promiscuity,"[464] and Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said that Zuma was asking people "to do as I say and not as I do."[466]

Zuma initially denied that the incident was relevant to the government's HIV/AIDS programme and appealed for privacy.[463] However, amid burgeoning public controversy, on 6 February Zuma said he "deeply regretted the pain that he caused to his family, the ANC, the alliance and South Africans in general."[467] Similarly, the ANC initially defended Zuma, saying that it saw no links between its HIV/AIDS policies and Zuma's personal life,[468] but on 5 February acknowledged the widespread disapproval and said that it had listened to the public and learnt "many valuable lessons."[469]ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema said, "Zuma is our father so we are not qualified to talk about that," but committed the Youth League to continual emphasis on its HIV/AIDS programme and "one boyfriend, one girlfriend" stance in a nationwide awareness campaign.[470] ANC Women's League deputy president Nosipho Ntwanambi said:

With many African people for instance, and generally speaking, it is not right to have an extramarital affair if you have committed to yourself to a marriage. But under the Customary Marriages Act, if the first wife agrees, and if all these issues are discussed with her, we can't do anything.[471]

Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the ANC's Tripartite Alliance partner the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said that he passed no judgment but hoped that the matter would be "on Zuma's conscience," while also reiterating Zuma's appeal for privacy.[469]


Zuma is a grandfather to 7 kids known by the public but people say there are more grandchildren of Zuma. But his known grandkids have been identified as "Sethu", "Amahle", "Sthelwesihle", "Asante", "Azizah" and "Akhila" and sources close to him say he also has a grandchild named "Ethan".[472]

Jacob Zuma Foundation

Zuma started the Jacob Zuma Foundation to send children to school and build houses for people living in poverty. The former chairperson of the Foundation is Dudu Myeni,[473] who was also the chairperson of South African Airways. She resigned her memberships of the boards of directors of these and other bodies because she was declared a delinquent director for life in May 2020, by the Pretoria High Court.[474]

Honours and awards



Honorary degrees

Other honours

  • 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.[480]


  • The Passion of Jacob Zuma, 2009 French documentary by Jean-Baptiste Dusséaux and Matthieu Niango[481]
  • Motherland, 2010 documentary directed by Owen 'Alik Shahadah

See also


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Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Deputy President of South Africa
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of South Africa
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by President of the African National Congress
Succeeded by