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November 17, 2018

Jacob Zuma: Time up for the South African cat with nine lives

South African President Jacob Zuma takes part in a dance during his traditional wedding to Tobeka Madiba, his fifth wife, at the village of Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal, January 4, 2010. /REUTERS
South African President Jacob Zuma takes part in a dance during his traditional wedding to Tobeka Madiba, his fifth wife, at the village of Nkandla in northern KwaZulu-Natal, January 4, 2010. /REUTERS

Jacob Zuma has been likened to the cat with nine lives that does not die even after incidents that would have guaranteed this outcome.

He is the 'survivor' President of South Africa who has been plagued with troubles for years.

Zuma, whose middle name is 'Gedleyihlekisa', has had one of the most controversial terms as President since white-minority rule ended in 1994.

Since becoming South Africa's leader in 2009, he has been dogged by scandals and lived up to his middle Zulu name which means 'I laugh at you as I destroy you'.

But this won't be for long as the ruling African National Congress has piled pressure for him to resign.

Read: ANC decides to remove Zuma as SA president - source

Also read: SA president Jacob Zuma could quit within days

'People's president'

Zuma was born into poverty and went into exile to fight apartheid before rising as a leader.

His charisma and poor background enabled him to ascend to power in 2009, his supporters seeing a different rule from that of former President Thabo Mbeki.

His upbringing and promotion of traditional family values were seen as major factors in his enduring popularity especially in rural areas.

But it was not long until people began questioning Zuma's carefully crafted 'people's president' image.

By 2013, his image lay in tatters following the upgrading of his residence in the rural area of Nkandla, in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, using state funds.

Before and during his presidency, he was charged with rape in 2005 but was acquitted.

Zuma has fought a long legal battle over allegations of corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik's conviction for corruption and fraud.

Of all the stories and allegations about him, this is the most personal and the one some South Africans believe exposes their president’s true character in the most damaging way.

But in the years since the trial, Zuma’s behaviour towards women has continued to trouble some South Africans.

The proud polygamist has been married six times and currently has four wives and more than 20 children.

In 2010, he admitted he’d fathered a child with the daughter of another old family friend, and subsequently apologised.

Why must Zuma go?

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Zuma had to face 18 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money laundering relating to the 1999 arms deal.

This all came about because the opposition Democratic Alliance brought a case before a Pretoria court, demanding that the President face charges. Zuma lodged an appeal but lost it.

Here is a summary of reasons why South Africans want a change in leadership:

2005: Zuma charged with corruption over multi-billion dollar 1999 arms deal - charges dropped shortly before he becomes President in 2009

2016: Court orders he should be charged with 18 counts of corruption over the deal. Zuma appealed.

2005: Zuma charged with raping family friend and was later acquitted in 2006

2016: Court rules he breached his oath of office by using government money to upgrade private home in Nkandla - he has repaid the money.

2017: Public protector said he should appoint a judge-led inquiry into allegations he profiteered from the relationship with wealthy Gupta family - he denies allegations, as have the Guptas.

2018: Zuma approves the inquiry.

Read: Dates that explain why Zuma is under pressure

What next for the 'cat'?

Zuma has survived several no-confidence votes during his rule, due to loyal voting by ANC lawmakers.

But since Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected ANC leader in December 2017, he has faced mounting calls from his party to end his second term - his term was supposed to end in mid-2019.

The President's premature departure would consolidate Ramaphosa who has been his deputy since 2014.

Ramaphosa would become President in accordance with the constitution.

Last week, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, for the second time, urged Zuma to step down. South Africa had seen "systematic looting" under Zuma's rule, and he "must go sooner rather than later", the foundation said in a statement.

So what will Zuma do after his term in office is cut short?

The Huffington Post reported in September last year that the ruling party's support is at stake, following warnings by Mbeki and several outspoken MPs on its 2019 plan.

"As the party embarks on a process of organisational renewal, self-reflection and unity, analysts have warned that the only way to restore voter confidence would be to get rid of Zuma at the first opportunity," the agency said at the time.

 This means Zuma could slip into oblivion as the party cuts ties with him.

The President could also be charged with "fraud, corruption and racketeering".

"The president is dragging out his court battles until he is sure his survival, not just politically but criminally as well, is secured," Huffing Post said.

Under Ramaphosa, ANC is planning to attract foreign investors to help it kick-start economic growth and eradicate poverty. It has promised to crack down on corruption.

More on this: South Africa to target investment, corruption under ANC's Ramaphosa

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