The other side of Jacob Zuma

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma was elected president of South Africa in 2009. This came after he won the presidency of the African National Congress (ANC) in 2007, during the organisation’s national elections, which are held every five years in the month of December.

The ANC, South Africa’s National Liberation Movement, which established in 1912 is the oldest surviving freedom movement in Africa and probably in the world. It has been in power since the country gained independence from colonial rule in 1994. Zuma, born in INkandla Zululand of the Natal Province, now called KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa, on April 12, 1942, has had to overcome so many hard blockages in the road to the highest office in South Africa.

Zuma had served as deputy president of South Africa from 1999 to 2005, before he was unceremoniously sacked by then President Thabo Mbeki, due to his association with his old time Comrade and financial advisor, Schabir Shaik who had been found guilty of corruption by the Durban High Court. But most importantly to note though, is that the road to the ANC presidency started a long ago for Zuma.  He became politically active at a young age. When Zuma’s father died at the end of World War II, after which his mother took up employment as a domestic worker in Durban, the young Jacob spent his childhood moving between Zululand and the suburbs of Durban. 

With little time for school, he taught himself how to read and write. It has been established that he could only go as far as Standard 3, now Grade 6.  And by age 15, Zuma took on odd jobs to supplement his mother’s income. His triumph over his early struggles has been linked before to Zuma’s popularity with the masses of his country. He is certainly an appealing figure to many South Africans. Zuma was influenced by a trade unionist family member, before he joined the ANC, which stood against the country’s practice of Apartheid, or racial segregation and separate development, and other discriminatory policies under colonial rule.

Forced to go underground after the 1960 bannings, the ANC, which had long been a non-violent group, developed a militant wing in the early 1960s. Known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the new militant group undertook acts of sabotage against the oppressive Apartheid government. Zuma joined the group in 1962 and was arrested the next year with 45 other members in Zeerus, North West Province. He was soon convicted of conspiracy. Also in 1963, Zuma joined the South African Communist Party (SACP).

Sentenced to 10 years in prison, Zuma served his time in the infamous Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela, the country’s future president, was also imprisoned for 18 years with other struggle stalwarts. Mandela spent the rest of his 27 year term in other prisons. Whilst imprisoned, Zuma showed character, discipline, hard work among many other qualities he still possesses. He was to benefit enormously from the experience of the senior comrades like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, to name a few. Also, while on Robben Island, Zuma served as a referee for prisoners’ association football games, organised by the prisoners’ own governing body, the Makana Football Association. Before the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa, FIFA officially honoured and recognised the Makana Football Association as one of its structures.

On his release in 1973, Zuma continued fighting for freedom and his political commitments to the ANC. He was to play an essential role in building the underground organization’s infrastructure in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. After the Apartheid government beefed up its security programmes on the liberation movements, Zuma left South Africa in 1975 and landed in Swaziland. He then proceeded to Mozambique, where he dealt with the arrival of thousands of exiles in the wake of the Soweto Uprisings of June 16, 1976.

He also went for formal military training and travelled across the breath of the continent executing his ANC assignments. Zuma was elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee in 1977. Holding a number of ANC posts over the next decade, he established a reputation as loyal and hardworking cadre. He also served as Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC in Mozambique, a post he occupied until the signing of the Nkomati Accord between the Mozambican government and the ANC in 1984. After signing the Accord, Zuma was appointed as Chief Representative of the ANC.

He served on the ANC’s political and military council when it was formed in the mid-1980s, and was elected to the politburo of the SACP in April 1990. In January 1987, Zuma was forced to leave another African country this time by the government of Mozambique – due to security concerns. Zuma then moved to the ANC Head Office in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was appointed Head of Underground Structures and shortly thereafter Chief of the Intelligence Department of the ANC. Following the end of the ban on the ANC in February 1990, Zuma was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa to begin the process of negotiations. He headed the first ever official meeting between the ANC and the Apartheid Regime at Grotte Schuur on May 4, 1990 in Cape Town, in what went on to be called the ‘The Grotte Schuur Minute’.

Also in 1990, Zuma was elected Chairperson of the ANC for the Southern Natal region. He further took a leading role in fighting political violence in the region between members of the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). Zuma was elected the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC in 1991 at the ANC December National Conference (the ANC’s first national conference on homes soil since its banning in 1960), and in January 1994, he was nominated as the ANC candidate for the Premiership of KwaZulu-Natal.

At the ANC’s national conference in December 1994, which the organization felt was needed to patch up on the decades on its banning, Zuma was elected National Chairperson of the ANC. Of course, by this time Zuma had had experience in national leadership, as he had served in the National Executive committee of the ANC in 1977 when the party was still a guerrilla movement. By the time he became its president in 2007 he had served the ANC for 30 years. 

After the 1994 general election, with the ANC becoming a governing organisation but having lost KwaZulu-Natal province to the IFP, Zuma was appointed as Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) of Economic Affairs and Tourism for the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government. After being elected National Chairperson of the ANC and chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal in December 1994, and re-elected to the latter position in 1996, it was becoming clearer to many that Zuma would play a leading role in the future of the ANC and that of South Africa. The striking sign that Zuma would one day be the leader of his country was when he was elected Deputy President of the ANC at the National Conference held at Mafikeng in December 1997. And consequently he was appointed executive Deputy President of South Africa in June 1999, under Thabo Mbeki’s Presidency.

In terms of ANC tradition, as the deputy president of the ANC, Zuma was already in line to succeed Thabo Mbeki. After Mbeki fired Zuma in 2005, many thought it was the end of the road for Zuma, at least politically. But as we now know, fate had other ideas. Zuma fought for his political survival and garnered enough support of the alliance partners of the ruling ANC, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), with the ANC Youth League being another structure that would totally devote its energy to the political ‘come back’  of Zuma.

Zuma was cleared by courts of law of any allegations levelled against his during his political career. ANC structures held their nominations conferences in October and November 2007, where Zuma appeared favourite for the post of ANC President, and, by implication, the President of South Africa in 2009. With then-incumbent ANC- and South African President Thabo Mbeki as his opposition, Zuma was elected President of the ANC on 18 December 2007. After the general election in 2009, Zuma became the President of South Africa. And at the December 2012 National Conference, Zuma was re-elected as President of the ANC.

Zuma has proven indeed that he is not just a politician but also a man of the people throughout his various foundations. In keeping with the results-driven approach of its Patron, the Jacob Zuma Foundation strives to respond effectively, efficiently and within its valued accountability, to the needs of beneficiary communities.

“A hungry child cannot be expected to concentrate and do well in class,” says Jacob Zuma

The Jacob Zuma Foundation prides itself on its ethics, integrity and credibility and is respected both locally and internationally for its commitment to the socio-economic upliftment of the poor. The Foundation is committed to broadening its network of donor partners to enable life-changing upliftment of impoverished South Africans. Meanwhile, the Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust was formed in 1995 by its Patron, President Zuma, who was a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal at that time.

Using an RDP Discretionary Fund of R500 000, which was provided to each MEC to establish a project of his/her choice, Zuma opted to focus his attention on providing access to education for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and youth in society.  This focus on education was as a result of his firm belief in education being the most real and sustainable form of empowerment.

The Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust started its work in KwaZulu-Natal, and has since extended its footprints to the Eastern Cape and the Limpopo Provinces.  It strategic objective is to extend its reach to the rest of South Africa within the next three to five years. The Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust is governed by a Board of Trustees comprising representatives from the private sector, former beneficiaries of the Trust and academics.  The day-to-day operations are managed by a team led by the Chief Executive Officer, with offices in Durban, Inkandla, East London, Polokwane and Johannesburg.

Over the years, the Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust has benefited over 20 000 young people.  Currently, it is supporting 1 200 young people at tertiary and basic education levels. 

The Trust depends, mainly, on donations and sponsorships to advance its objectives. It has forged strategic partnerships with organizations such as Cipla South Africa, Camac International Corporation and MerSeta on educational matters of common interest.  The Trust has a policy of utilizing a least 80% of all money raised towards its core business and 20% or less towards its operations.  On a yearly basis, it is audited by PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PWC).

Since coming into office in 2009 President Zuma has created key programmes, policies and enjoyed a fair amount of successes, including South Africa’s inclusion in the group of the fastest growing economies of the world, BRIC, now known as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).

The Zuma government has also initiated the New Growth Path (NGP), a new framework for economic policy and the driver of the country’s jobs strategy. Others are the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP). IPAP is predicated on the need to bring about significant structural change to the South African economy; and the big one, the National Development Plan (NDP), Vision 2030, the NDP offers a long-term perspective. It defines a desired destination and identifies the role different sectors of society need to play in reaching that goal.

“The NDP aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.”

The NGP, IPAP and National Infrastructure Development Programme among others have been included in the National Development Plan.

The following universities have awarded Zuma honorary degree: University of Zululand Awarded in 2001 Honorary Doctor of Administration; University of Fort Hare Awarded in 2001, Honorary Doctor of Literature/Letters; University of  Medicine of South Africa Awarded in 2001, Honorary Doctor of Philosophy and Peking University Beijing, China, Awarded in July 2012 Honorary Professor of International Relations.

Achievements & Awards include the King Hintsa Bravery Award in 2012; Jose Marti Award in 2010, Cuba’s highest award; African President of the Year by the African Consciousness Media and the Kenneth Kaunda Foundation in 2009; and the Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership in 1998.

Activities & Memberships include Umkhonto We Sizwe Active Member, 1962 – 1990;  African National Congress

Member, 1959 – present; Albert Luthuli Education and Development Foundation as Patron; Peace and Reconstruction Foundation as Patron; Jacob Zuma Bursary Fund at Patron, 1998 – present; and the Moral Regeneration Movement as Patron.

Currently, Zuma’s focus is to successfully implement the NDP for the sake of his legacy, it seems.

June 2015
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