Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa

Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa, 1942–, South African political leader, b. Indkandla, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) prov. Zuma received no formal schooling and joined the African National Congress (ANC) when he was 17, becoming active in the party's military wing in 1962. Convicted of conspiring to overthrow the country's government, he served 10 years in prison (1963–73), then went into exile. Zuma became a member of the ANC's executive committee (1977–1984) and returned to South Africa when the ban against the party was lifted in 1990. A Zulu, he mediated between the ANC and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom party during violent clashes among supporters of the two groups in the early 1990s.

Zuma served as deputy president of South Africa (1999–2005), but was dismissed by President Thabo Mbeki when he was implicated in a corruption case. He subsequently was charged with rape (and acquitted) and graft (the case was dismissed for technical reasons). With the support of left-leaning trade unions and poorer black South Africans, Zuma defeated Mbeki for the chairmanship of the ANC in 2007.

In 2007 prosecutors again indicted him on corruption charges. The charges were set aside in 2008 for procedural reasons, but that decision was overturned on appeal in 2009; later in 2009 the government dropped the charges, saying that the second indictment had been politically motivated. In May, 2009, he was elected president of South Africa, succeeding Kgalema Motlanthe. In Nov., 2009, the regional Southern African Development Community named Zuma as mediator between the parties in the unity government in Zimbabwe. Zuma was reelected ANC leader in 2012, defeating a challenge from Motlanthe, and was reelected to the South African presidency in May, 2014.

In Mar., 2014, an anticorruption investigation into opulent government-financed improvements to his private residence resulted in a report that ordered Zuma to repay the government for those improvements that were not part of a security upgrade. When Zuma did not, the constitutional court ruled (2016) that he had violated the constitution and ordered that he make a repayment. That and other scandals as well as increased unemployment led to calls for Zuma to resign, but he survived an impeachment attempt and a challenge to his leadership of the ANC (2016) and a secret-ballot no-confidence vote in parliament (2017). In 2017 the supreme court of appeals upheld a 2016 court ruling that he should be tried on the corruption charges that were dropped in 2009 (the charges were formally reinstated in 2018), and the constitutional court ruled that the 2016 impeachment charges had not been properly investigated. Zuma was succeeded as ANC leader by Cyril Ramaphosa in 2017, and subsequently resigned (2018) as South African president under pressure from the ANC; Ramaphosa again succeeded him. Although his successor pushed for an investigation into corruption in Zuma’s government, in February 2021, Zuma refused to appear before the Commission on State Capture, the panel established to lead this enquiry. Subsequently, he was ordered to spend 15 months in prison for refusing to testify, beginning his sentence in early July. He was released on medical parole in September, but in December a judge ruled that he must return to prison to serve out the rest of his sentence.

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