Profile of Jacob Zuma

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

South Africans can be assured that with Jacob Zuma as their President, they will be led by a dedicated activist who has spent no less than half a century immersed in politics and the cause of attaining a better life for all.

Mr Jacob Zuma became the fourth democratic President of the Republic of South Africa on 9 May 2009.

Mr Zuma's march to the highest public office in the land has its origins in humble beginnings.

Born on 12 April 1942, in the rural village of Nkandla in KwaZulu Natal, Mr Zuma spent much of his childhood moving between Zululand and the suburbs of Durban. His father died when he was only five years old. Together with his mother and siblings, he was taken into the care of his maternal grandparents in Maphumulo. His circumstances were such that the young Zuma could not attend school and received no formal education.

As a 17-year-old looking for work in KwaZulu Natal's main urban centre, Durban, Jacob Zuma joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1959.

Three years later, he became an active member of Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, following the banning of the organization in 1960.

He was later convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government, and was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, which he served on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Harry Gwala and others.

After his release, over the next decade, Mr Zuma lived in several African countries working for the ANC, where he rose rapidly through the ranks to become a member of the ANC National Executive Committee in 1977.

When the apartheid government lifted the ban on the ANC in 1990, Mr Zuma was amongst the first of the ANC cadres to return home.

In January 1994, Mr Zuma was nominated as the ANC candidate for the Premiership of KwaZulu-Natal. He was subsequently appointed as Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) of Economic Affairs and Tourism for the KZN provincial government.

Destined for an even more important role in his organisation and in public life, Jacob Zuma was elected National Chairperson of the ANC and chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal in December 1994. He was re-elected to the latter position in 1996. A year later, in December 1997, he was elected Deputy President of the ANC.

In June 1999, Mr Zuma was appointed Executive Deputy President of South Africa, a position he held until June 2005.

On 18 December 2007, Mr Zuma was elected President of the ANC at the party's 52nd conference in Polokwane

It was in this capacity that he led the party's 2009 General Election campaign.