Former South African President Jacob Zuma, once jailed for fighting the apartheid regime, is returning to prison, this time for contempt after surrendering to the authorities.
He was jailed for 15 months for snubbing an anti-graft judicial commission of inquiry.
Charismatic and jovial, he fell out of favor before the end of his second term in 2018, ousted by his own ANC party on corruption charges. He was replaced by the current president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Zuma – whose middle name Gedleyihlekisa means “one who laughs while crushing his enemies” – started as a shepherd and became the fourth president of South Africa.
The 79-year-old was once nicknamed the “President of Teflon” for his ability to evade the verdict of justice.
He left a special panel investigating massive state corruption – accusing its president, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, of bias, despite dozens of witnesses who linked him to wrongdoing.
– Questionable transactions –
Zuma is no stranger to impropriety.
He also faces 16 counts of fraud, corruption and racketeering related to a purchase of arms and equipment in 1999 from European arms companies while he was vice-president.
In 2006, he was brought to justice for the alleged rape of a colleague’s HIV-positive daughter – of whom he was acquitted.
During the trial, Zuma sadly told judges he had unprotected sex with the woman and showered after sex to avoid catching the virus.
He succeeded Thabo Mbeki as ANC leader in 2007 and inherited a divisive party that has continued to tarnish his presidency.
An ANC faction led by Zuma in 2009 disbanded an elite anti-corruption body set up by its predecessor, known as the Scorpions, after it began to anger the president and his allies.
But his questionable relationships caught up with him.
It was Zuma himself, under pressure from a burgeoning plethora of corruption scandals, who set up the anti-corruption judicial inquiry shortly before his ouster.
He has only testified once, in July 2019, and has since ignored multiple invitations to reappear.
– Climb through the ranks –
Born April 12, 1942 in a rural hamlet in KwaZulu-Natal province, Zuma joined the ANC as a teenager, when the party was still underground, and rose through the ranks.
After spending 10 years in prison on Robben Island for fighting the white minority regime, Zuma fled into exile and became the party’s feared intelligence chief.
The anti-apartheid song “Umshini Wami”, Bring Me My Machine Gun, became her flagship song.
In 1999, he was elected vice-president.
A proud traditionalist, Zuma still often swaps tailor-made costumes for traditional Zulu leopard skin clothing, participating in war dances stomping on the ground during ceremonies in his home village.
A staple and non-smoker, he has married seven times and has at least 20 children.
And Zuma’s private personality is more accessible. A TikTok video posted in May showed him dancing with some of his granddaughters.
On his way to jail on July 7, his daughter Dudu Zuma-Sambudla tweeted that he was staying in a good mood and jokingly hoped his inmates still wore the same prison outfit he wore on Robben Island.
Zuma’s strong family and cultural values continue to garner support, although his fan base has shrunk over the years.
He has retained a loyal network of lawmakers, officials and grassroots supporters who have continued to rally with him despite scandals that have tarnished his reputation.
But during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in 2013, he was loudly booed by ordinary South Africans in front of world leaders.
© 2021 AFP