Zuma's scandal-plagued tenure

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma gestures after announcing his resignation at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, February 14, 2018. Photo: Reuters

JOHANNESBURG – Jacob Zuma’s tumultuous decade in power has officially come to an end with his resignation late on Wednesday.

He resigned after being recalled by his party, the African National Congress (ANC), earlier this week.

The 75-year-old survived numerous attempts to unseat him, including several motions of no-confidence. But the final straw came through the December election of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to the position of ANC president during the governing party’s elective conference in Johannesburg.

Below are some of the main scandals involving Zuma with some dating back to before his ascent to power.

Arms deal

Zuma is still fighting 783 counts of corruption over a R30 billion government arms deal arranged in the late 1990s when he was deputy president.

Kuzwayo was the HIV-positive daughter of a friend he was imprisoned with on Robben Island.

Zuma was acquitted in 2006 but was ridiculed after saying he had showered after sex to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

Nkandla upgrades

Soon after becoming president, it emerged that millions of rand in public money had been spent on upgrades to Zuma's Nkandla home, including a swimming pool that one minister justified as a fire-fighting resource.

Zuma survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament over the upgrades and paid back some of the money after unsuccessfully trying to argue his case in the Constitutional Court.

Sonono Khoza

Zuma apologised to South Africans in 2010 after fathering a child out of wedlock with his friend Irvin Khoza's daughter, Sonono.

The former president - a polygamist - had promised the ANC's leadership he would not engage in extramarital sex after the Khwezi episode.

Clever blacks’

Zuma caused controversy in 2012 for scolding black people "who become too clever" in an address to South Africa's National House of Traditional Leaders.

He said "they became the most eloquent in criticising themselves about their own traditions".

Zuma, who received no formal schooling, has a loyal following in rural areas.

But he failed to receive support in urban areas, where ANC support dwindled – culminating in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth going to the opposition after the last elections.

Waterkloof landing

Zuma's friends, the Gupta brothers, used national key point the Waterkloof Air Force Base, to fly in 200 wedding guests from India for a family member's wedding in 2013, sparking a public outcry.

The ANC called the landing reckless and a breach of national security.


Zuma fired finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, replacing him with unknown parliamentary backbencher Des van Rooyen.

Under-pressure Zuma was then forced to sack van Rooyen, dubbed ‘Weekend Special’ by members of the public, reappointing a previous finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, four days later after the rand collapsed.

Electoral debacle

The ANC lost its grip on local government in three metropolitan areas in 2016.

This was the governing party's worst election result since the end of white minority rule in 1994.

Unemployment, economic stagnation and scandals around Zuma were among reasons the ANC lost voter support.

State capture

The Public Protector’s office in 2016 published a report entitled "State of Capture" alleging the Guptas had tried to influence the appointment of Cabinet ministers and were unlawfully awarded tenders.

Central to the report was the claim by then-deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas that Zuma's son, Duduzane, invited him to the Gupta family home where he was offered the job of finance minister and a bribe of R600 million.

The Guptas and Zuma have denied any wrongdoing.

The Public Protector recommended a judicial inquiry be set up to investigate grand-level corruption involving Zuma and the Guptas.

Midnight reshuffle

Zuma fired Gordhan as finance minister and Jonas as deputy finance minister in a midnight reshuffle in March 2017.

South African financial markets plummeted, with senior ANC officials expressing anger at the lack of consultation.


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