South Africa’s highest court on Tuesday ordered the imprisonment of Jacob Zuma, the country’s former president, for 15 months on contempt charges, after he defied an order to appear before a corruption inquiry examining the breathtaking financial scandals that tainted his tenure as the country’s leader from 2009 to 2018.
The move to detain Mr. Zuma, a comrade of Nelson Mandela and one of the dominant figures in the governing African National Congress party since apartheid ended in 1994, was a notable development in the legacy of corruption that shadowed his years in power.
Many across the country hailed the ruling as a victory for this young democracy — a message that no one, not even a former head of state, is above the law. It could even have implications across the continent, where courts often take a back seat to powerful heads of state, said William Gumede, who leads the Democracy Works Foundation, a nonprofit focused on developing democracy in Africa.
“It’s going to inspire people across the continent — civil society, media, opposition parties — to actually take on former presidents and sitting presidents,” he said.
Here is a list of the most interesting things you didn’t know about Jacob Zuma.
1. His full name is Jacob Gedleyihlekis Zuma. The name Gedleyihlekisa means the one who laughs while grinding his enemies.
2. His clan’s name is Msholozi. He was born on 12 April, 1942 in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
3. Jacob Zuma had no formal education as a child.
4. His father, a policeman, died at the end of World War II when Zuma was five years old.
5. After his father’s death, his mother took up employment as a domestic worker.
6. Consequently he had no form of education as he had to support his mother. He taught himself to read and write Zulu in the bush. Be that as it may, it did not stop him from learning other languages. Other than Zulu, he speaks French, Russian, Portuguese Swahili and Xhosa fluently.
7. Jacob Zuma has Soviet Union training.
8. He began engaging in politics at age 17 when he joined the African National Congress.
9. He became a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the militant arm of ANC, in 1962. This was after the South African Government had banned the party.
10. He joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1963. It was while he was a member of the Communist party that he received military training in the Soviet Union. He later joined the African National Congress’ Department of Intelligence where he was the Head of Intelligence.
11. He was imprisoned on Robben Island for 10 years.
12. In 1963, Zuma was arrested along with 45 recruits of the ANC. They were convicted of conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government and were consequently sentenced to serve time on Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela and other prominent ANC leaders.
13. While on Robben Island, he served as a referee for the prisoners’ association football games which were organised by the prisoners’ governing body, Makana F.A.
14. In 1987, Jacob Zuma was forced to leave Mozambique. The Mozambican government ordered Zuma to leave the country. He then left Mozambique for Lusaka, Zimbabwe. The ANC headquarters were then moved to Zimbabwe and he was appointed as Head of Underground Structures.
15. He was plagued by corruption and rape allegations.
16. In 1999, while he was Executive Deputy President of South Africa, he faced corruption charges for an alleged mismanagement of 29 million rand that was said to have been used for strategic arms such as planes, boats, submarines and helicopters. The charges were later dropped in 2003.
17. He was however placed in the lime light again after his financial advisor was convicted of corruption and fraud. As a result, Thabo Mbeki, then the South African President, fired him from his position as Executive Deputy
18. President. Jacob Zuma once faced rape charges in 2005 after a woman claimed that he raped her in his home. After pleading guilty, he stood trial.
19. He was criticised for his ignorance about HIV/Aids after he claimed that he had a shower after having unprotected sex with his accuser, so that he could avoid contracting the disease. The judge eventually acquitted Jacob Zuma of the charges. His corruption charges were also later thrown out of court.
20. He is married to four women and has an estimated number of 21 children.
21. He has been married a total number of six times, but remains married to four women as one of his spouses died, and he divorced another.
22. In 2003, he paid a dowry of 10 cattles to ask for the hand of Princess Sebentile Dlamin of Swazi. She is expected to become his fifth wife. The Swazi royal family is disgruntled because he never made any further preparations to marry the princess since he paid the dowry.
23. His political high point was during the major ARV rollout. There are an estimated 6 million HIV/Aids patients in South Africa. However, Jacob Zuma’s plans to improve healthcare, especially for Aids patients has led to a healthier nation with a longer life expectancy than years before (60 years of age).
24. His political low point occurred when he was sacked as deputy president in 2005. Then president Thabo Mbeki sacked Zuma from his position as deputy president due to allegations against him of fraud and corruption. He was taken to court, but the charges against him were dismissed on procedural grounds.
25. He is considered to be a man of the people. Zuma is known to have a very charismatic personality, and has a background story the average South African can relate to.
26. He came from a humble background and did odd jobs to help his family after his father passed away. Nevertheless, he has made major accomplishments. His story, therefore, conveys hope that where you’re from doesn’t determine where you’re going.
But do you know our president’s favourite food? Or that he too spent time on Robben Island?
27. Our president’s middle name, “Gedleyihlekisa”, was constructed by his father. When the Zulu phrase is translated into English, it reads, “I cannot keep quiet when someone pretends to love me with a deceitful smile”.
28. If you’re into astrology, you’d want to know that Zuma is an Aries, born 12 April, 1942. Words often used to describe the Aries sign include “optimistic”, “born leader” and “enthusiastic”.
29. President Zuma loves to dig into a dish of oxtail, his favourite meal.
30. When he is enjoying his oxtail, don’t offer our President an alcoholic drink – he’d much prefer some Rooibos tea with honey.
31. When in exile – first in Swaziland and then in Mozambique – President Zuma regarded Former State President Thabo Mbeki as his best friend.
32. When Msholozi – our President’s praise name – was a young boy, he excelled at stick fighting and he most likely started off with tree branches.
33. Leading from a young age, President Zuma set up a night school for him and some of his friends. Here he learned as much as he could from an elderly woman whom the boys paid 25 cents.
34. During his decade on Robben Island, President Zuma did not receive a single visitor as his mother could not afford the fare and he asked that she save the money for his siblings.
35. Being a football lover, a young Jacob Zuma served as the Rangers captain, one of the teams at the Robben Island prison.
36. When President Zuma left Robben Island, he started working at a pet shop.
37. Zuma has had more than 750 corruption charges against him, according to a PBS Wide Angle interview with Azad Essa, political blogger for the Mail & Guardian.
The most significant issue was this arms deal with a French company, a multimillion-dollar arms deal, and Zuma was accused of accepting bribes, et cetera, et cetera. He was charged and as a result was pushed to resign; he lost his job as deputy president. The issue has dragged on from that time, since 2005, and has been dropped and recharged and dropped, but now it’s been dropped completely because there’s enough evidence to suggest the entire accusation against him was motivated politically.
38. Zuma served a 10-year sentence on Robben Island with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Govan Mbeki; he was arrested in the Transvaal for attempting to leave the country, reported Politicsweb. The Sunday Times series added that Mbeki taught him how to use a gun and both had a huge impact on his involvement in political activism after his release.
39. Zuma is a self-proclaimed polygamist and has been married at least four times.
40. One of his wives committed suicide in 2000.
From the Sunday Times article, describing his first marriage after his release from prison: He was unemployed, but wanted to marry his childhood sweetheart, Sizakele Gertrude Khumalo. The wedding was finally financed, to a large extent by one Mrs DM Wall of the West Midlands in England. She was linked to the International Defence and Aid Fund that helped sustain political activists who, upon their release from prison, often found themselves unemployable.
41. On gay marriage: South Africa’s gays would also be disturbed by a president who describes same sex marriages as “a disgrace to the nation and to God”, adding: “When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a rude Zulu word for homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would have knocked him out.” – Times Online (UK)
42: On teenage pregnancy: Our dear president has been saying that teenage mothers “must be taken to colleges and forced to get an education so that they can be in a position to look after themselves”. And, he says, a child who does not go to school “must be taught by force until (he or she) gets a degree. We then return him to his parents as a person who has been developed.” – The Times (South Africa)