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Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma

Zuma, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa, 1942–, South African political leader, b. Indkandla, Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) prov. Zuma received no formal schooling and joined the African National Congress (ANC) when he was 17, becoming active in the party's military wing in 1962. Convicted of conspiring to overthrow the country's government, he served 10 years in prison (1963–73), then went into exile. Zuma became a member of the ANC's executive committee (1977–1984) and returned to South Africa when the ban against the party was lifted in 1990. A Zulu, he mediated between the ANC and the Zulu-based Inkatha Freedom party during violent clashes among supporters of the two groups in the early 1990s.

Zuma served as deputy president of South Africa (1999–2005), but was dismissed by President Thabo Mbeki when he was implicated in a corruption case. He subsequently was charged with rape (and acquitted) and graft (the case was dismissed for technical reasons). With the support of left-leaning trade unions and poorer black South Africans, Zuma defeated Mbeki for the chairmanship of the ANC in 2007.

In 2007 prosecutors again indicted him on corruption charges. The charges were set aside in 2008 for procedural reasons, but that decision was overturned on appeal in 2009; later in 2009 the government dropped the charges, saying that the second indictment had been politically motivated. In May, 2009, he was elected president of South Africa, succeeding Kgalema Motlanthe. In Nov., 2009, the regional Southern African Development Community named Zuma as mediator between the parties in the unity government in Zimbabwe. Zuma was reelected ANC leader in 2012, defeating a challenge from Motlanthe.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: African History: Biographies

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