Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa is a man under siege. That is if a recent court order is anything to go by. He has been like the proverbial cat with nine lives. His political career as president has had many lives. Indeed he has survived several chilling votes of confidence against him. But his lives do eventually run out. And for Zuma, after rape and corruption allegations, this could be the last one.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court of Appeal, the country’s topmost court ordered parliament to initiate impeachment proceedings against him. He stands accused of embezzling taxpayers money in excess of USD 15 million and using it for upgrading his private home in Nkandla. Other than that, his leadership has been marred by numerous scandals and controversy. In fact, outside Africa, his controversies can only be rivaled by that of Donald Trump with his tweeting career, if at all.
South Africa has had its own fair share of a dark past. The country struggled through apartheid policies where a white minority government sought to segregate and control a black majority population. This resulted in bloody demonstrations and loss of thousands of lives such as during the Soweto uprising. More than 700 students were killed by police in that uprising alone. The struggle, however, bore fruits in 1990 when the country gained independence and Nelson Mandela was elected president. He championed for the unity of all the races thus earning South Africa the title ‘rainbow nation’.
An Uneducated President
Throughout the apartheid struggle was a young man. He was uneducated but outright intelligent. He joined the Africa National Congress (ANC) as a teenager and became an active member of its underground military wing called ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’. The wing’s work was to organize retaliatory fights against the apartheid government. He was later arrested in 1963 and sent to Robben Island for ten years, the same prison in which Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for twenty-seven years. He would later become the president of South Africa in 2009, still without a university degree. His name is Jacob Zuma.
In 2008, Thabo Mbeki, the then president of South Africa resigned after being sacked by the ANC’s National Executive Committee. Jacob Zuma, then the deputy president, proceeded to become his successor in 2009. But being president did not absolve him from controversy.
He was first accused of corruption after Schabir Shaik, his financial advisor, was found guilty of soliciting bribes from a French company to Zuma’s benefit. Schabir was slapped with a fifteen-year sentence. Corruption charges against Zuma were pressed by the National Prosecuting Authority. Political interference, however, made it hard for the case to mature and the charges were dropped. The case would later be picked up, dropped again, picked and continues up to today.
Rape Charges Against Jacob Zuma
His legacy has further been tainted by accusations of reckless sexual behavior, including rape allegations. Polygamy in South Africa is legal though controversial. Zuma himself is polygamous, having had more than four wives and more than twenty known children. That not-withstanding, he was charged with rape back in 2005.
He admitted to have had unprotected sex with the victim, whom he knew was HIV positive. He further added that he took a bath shortly after, so as to reduce chances of contracting HIV, a statement that was largely seen as ridiculous and outrageous. Two years later, he was found not guilty, much to the dismay of anti-rape activists. The woman accusing him fled to the Netherlands as an asylum seeker.
As president, the rain started beating him when allegations of corruption in his government started coming in fast and swift. The Guptas, an Indian tycoon family, were exposed as secretly cutting lucrative government deals with Jacob Zuma. Further, the country has experienced an economic slowdown that manifested when deadly xenophobic attacks broke out. Locals protested against losing jobs to foreigners. Zuma has further survived six votes of confidence against him. In 2017, he was sacked as the president of the ANC, further destabilizing his grip on power. It is, however, the latest court order that may serve as the final blow. Having lost leadership of the ANC, he is left with the option of resigning and make a strategic exit or to stay put, get impeached, and suffer humiliation.
If Jacob Zuma is indeed impeached, he will go down in history as the first African president to be impeached, a title he may not be too eager to receive. It is just a matter of time to see how things turn out in the rainbow nation.
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