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Jacob Zuma
Jacob Zuma, 2009 World Economic Forum on Africa-9-2.jpg
Zuma in 2009
4th President of South Africa
In office
9 May 2009 – 14 February 2018
  • Kgalema Motlanthe
  • Cyril Ramaphosa
Preceded by Kgalema Motlanthe
Succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa
13th President of the African National Congress
In office
18 December 2007 – 18 December 2017
  • Kgalema Motlanthe
  • Cyril Ramaphosa
Preceded by Thabo Mbeki
Succeeded by Cyril Ramaphosa
3rd Deputy President of South Africa
In office
14 June 1999 – 14 June 2005
President Thabo Mbeki
Preceded by Thabo Mbeki
Succeeded by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
6th Deputy President of the African National Congress
In office
20 December 1997 – 18 December 2007
President Thabo Mbeki
Preceded by Thabo Mbeki
Succeeded by Kgalema Motlanthe
Deputy Secretary-General of the African National Congress
In office
July 1991 – December 1994
Preceded by established
Succeeded by Cheryl Carolus
National Chairperson of the African National Congress
In office
December 1994 – December 1997
Preceded by Oliver Tambo
Succeeded by Terror Lekota
Personal details
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma

(1942-04-12) 12 April 1942 (age 82)
Nkandla, Natal, Union of South Africa
Political party African National Congress
Other political
uMkhonto we Sizwe (since 2023)
Gertrude Sizakele Khumalo
(m. 1973)
Kate Mantsho
(m. 1976; died 2000)
(m. 1982; div. 1998)
Nompumelelo Ntuli
(m. 2008)
Thobeka Mabhija
(m. 2010)
Gloria Bongekile Ngema
(m. 2012)
Children 20 (estimated), including Gugulethu, Thuthukile and Duduzane
  • Politician
  • anti-apartheid activist

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma ( 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 a former anti-apartheid activist, member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and president of the African National Congress (ANC) between 2007 and 2017.

Early life

Zuma was born in Nkandla, Natal Province (now part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal), and often moved around Natal and the suburbs of Durban as a child. His father, Nobhekisisa, was a policeman who died when Zuma was five, and his mother, Geinamazwi, was a domestic worker. His middle name, Gedleyihlekisa, means "one who smiles while causing you harm" in Zulu. He did not receive formal schooling.

He has at least three brothers—Michael, Joseph, and Khanya—and at least one sister—Velephi. 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.

Political career

Zuma joined the ANC at the age of 17 in 1959, and spent ten years in Robben Island Prison as a political prisoner. 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 quickly rose through the party's national leadership and became deputy secretary general in 1991, national chairperson in 1994, and deputy president in 1997. He was the deputy president of South Africa from 1999 to 2005 under President Thabo Mbeki, Nelson Mandela's successor.

On 14 June 2005, Mbeki removed Zuma from his post as deputy president following the conviction of Zuma's associate, Schabir Shaik, for making underhanded payments to Zuma in relation to the Arms Deal.

Soon after Zuma's dismissal, the NPA announced its intention to instate formal corruption charges against him. He was served with a provisional indictment on fraud and corruption charges in November 2005, mirroring the indictment earlier served on Shaik. 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, the matter was stricken off.

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. 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.

President of South Africa (2009–2018)

Zuma was elected president of South Africa in the 2009 general election and took office on 9 May. As president, he launched the R4-trillion National Infrastructure Plan and signed a controversial nuclear power deal with the Russian government, which was blocked by the Western Cape High Court in 2017. In 2017, he 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, 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 cooperation and economic diplomacy. The admission of South Africa to the BRICS grouping has been described as a major triumph for Zuma, and he has been praised for his HIV/AIDS policy.

Foreign policy

Ceremonial Welcome (4403964442)
Zuma and his third wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in London, 2010
Naoto Kan Barack Obama David Cameron and Jacob Zuma 20100625
Zuma speaks with Barack Obama and David Cameron at a G8 African Outreach meeting in 2010

Zuma's first state visit as president was to Angola, where he sought to improve relations with the government of President José Eduardo dos Santos, who had had a tense relationship with Mbeki. His government's foreign policy emphasised the developmental objectives of African and Global South countries with a focus on economic diplomacy. It was also characterised by a pivot towards the BRIC, especially China. In December 2010, South Africa became a formal member of BRIC, which was then renamed BRICS, 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".

During South Africa's tenure on the United Nations Security Council, Zuma's administration was criticised for deviating in its stance on certain foreign regimes, especially in its attitudes towards international intervention in civil conflicts. It voted in favour of Resolution 1970 and Resolution 1973 but condemned their use by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as the basis for military intervention in Libya. It also voted in favour of a 2012 resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, but established friendly relations with the Assad regime after the 2014 Syrian presidential election. The administration also appeared to vacillate in its response to the disputed 2010 presidential election in Côte d'Ivoire.


Despite an "Anyone but Zuma" campaign in the run-up to the ANC's 53rd National Conference, Zuma was re-elected ANC president on 18 December 2012, beating Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe by a large margin. Although in 2008 he had said that he would prefer to serve only one term as president, Zuma became the ANC's sole presidential candidate in the 2014 national election.


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 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 that were investigated by the Zondo Commission between 2018 and 2021. They claimed the Gupta family had acquired immense corrupt influence over Zuma's administration that amounted 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. After a 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 faced prosecution on corruption charges relating to the 1999 Arms Deal. He pleaded not guilty on 26 May 2021, but the trial was not scheduled to take place until early 2023. In July 2021, Zuma was imprisoned in Estcourt, KwaZulu-Natal, for contempt of court for a separate legal matter. After testifying for less than three days at the Zondo Commission on state capture allegations, he refused to return, violating summons 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 released on medical parole two months later on 5 September. The high court rescinded his parole on 15 December. The parole was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court of Appeal, but it allowed the Department of Correctional Services to consider whether to deduct the time spent under it from his sentence. On 11 August 2023, the Department of Correctional Services granted Zuma remission of his 15-month sentence.

Personality and public image

Zuma's "charisma and affable personality" is at the centre of his public image, and is thought to be responsible for much of his political popularity.

Zuma is known for his sense of humour. As a politician, he was viewed as an accessible figure – "a simple man, a man of the people", and a good listener.

He often presents himself as a Zulu traditionalist, and has been associated 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. He was frequently photographed wearing traditional Zulu attire at cultural events, and he appears less comfortable speaking in English than in his native Zulu, in which he is known for his "linguistic flair".

Personal life

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, and in 2014 the Guardian reported he had 21.

Jacob Zuma Foundation

Zuma started the foundation to send children to school and build houses for people living in poverty.

Honours and awards

Jacob Zuma
Statue of Jacob Zuma in Owerri, Imo state, Nigeria


Year Country Order
2010  Cuba Ribbon jose marti.png Order of José Martí.


  • Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Medical University of South Africa, awarded in Washington, D.C. (1998)
  • During a visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, Jacob Zuma was made an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.
  • Imo Merit Award, the highest award in the Imo State of Nigeria, is conferred on those who have made a difference in the development of their communities. (15 October 2017)


  • Nigeria's Imo State unveiled a statue of Jacob Zuma on 15 October 2017.

Honorary degrees

  • University of Zululand (2001), Honorary Doctor of Administration
  • University of Fort Hare (2001), Honorary Doctor of Literature/Letters
  • Medical University of Southern Africa (2001), Honorary Doctor of Philosophy
  • University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Campus (2009), Honorary Doctor of Law
  • Peking University (2012), Honorary Professor of International Relations

Images for kids

See also

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