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Jacob Zuma, Another sad End to a Heroic Era

By Ofwono Opondo
Feb, 14, 18
 
Last year Zimbabwe’s long ruling President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 93, in power since 1980 was ousted by a creeping military coup for allegedly plotting to install his wife Grace as president, and other protégés in government. After brief, but intense negotiations, the army retreated fearing regional hostility, and instead gang-pressed the ZANU-PF party machinery to kick Mugabe out under a confidential deal.
This week, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, or JZ, was pushed out by the African National Congress (ANC) over a long-running dispute involving alleged shoddy business dealings, racketeering and corruption with the Gupta family conglomerate. After foot dragging for almost a week, Zuma on Wednesday resigned avoiding a possible no-confidence vote that was pending in parliament. For now he has potentially avoided a bruising exit, and ANC will easily stretch its reigns. Both scenarios point to stronger and stable institutions, which for now, Uganda can only admire from a distance as we continue building.
Looking at the array of allegations against him, it hard to predict how the battles will end in the coming months or even years, more so, if President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC want to break with an alleged rotten recent past. But again, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s back-peddling over some key promises he made upon assuming office in Zimbabwe could be instructive.
Born in 1942, Zuma joined the ANC in 1959, became a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, its military wing in 1962, after apartheid banned the ANC in 1961. Zuma then joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1963, got arrested that year, tried and imprisoned for ten years over treason in Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela and other icons.
After his release, Zuma worked to re-establish ANC underground structures in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province then the hot bed of political violence by Inkatha Freedom Party of Chief Mongosuthu Buthelezi an apartheid yellow dog gangster. Zuma then joined the ANC Intelligence and eventually became its head, and a key figure in negotiations with the apartheid regime which produced majority rule.
Zuma served as South Africa’s Deputy President from 1999 to 2005, but was dismissed by President Thabo Mbeki in 2005 after Zuma's financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of soliciting a bribe for Zuma in relation to a $5 billion government weapons acquisition deal.
When Zuma won ANC presidency against Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki on December 18, 2007, he said that he preferred serving only one term, and so, Zuma had perhaps overstayed his welcome looking back at the many battles he has fought. Zuma has faced legal challenges before and during his presidency. He was charged with rape in 2005 when he was Mbeki’s vice president, but was acquitted. He then fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, the reason Mbeki sacked him.
But in terms of party tradition, and as ANC deputy president Zuma, being a man with the proverbial many lives, was already in line to succeed Mbeki. In October and November, 2007, the ANC party structures held their nominations conferences, and on December, 18, 2007, Zuma defeated Mbeki with 2329 to 1505 votes. 
Now under his wraps, Zuma marshaled the ANC party to bid his wishes against his present and future political foes within the ANC, and succeeded, albeit temporarily.  In 2008 Zuma was re-elected as ANC leader defeating challenger, then ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. But by September 2008, the breakdown within ANC controlled by Zuma, had reached a tipping point resulting into Thabo Mbeki’s recall and forced his resignation as president of South Africa, and thus Motlanthe became South Africa’s president until 9 May 2009.when ANC won another election under Zuma.
Mbeki’s recall was triggered when High Court Judge Christopher Nicholson ruled that Mbeki had improperly interfered with the operations of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including Zuma’s prosecution for corruption. NPA dropped the charges, and Zuma protégés within, struck, forcing NEC to recall Mbeki. 
For thirteen years, Zuma has endured public jeers, scorn, and disruptions at high profile official government events like at Nelson Mandela’s funeral services, and boos to his addresses in parliament and surviving eight no-confidence votes there over alleged corruption, racketeering, bribery, and being a nuisance.
The NPA decision was successfully challenged by opposition parties, and as of February 2018 the charges were before it for reconsideration. After that came the now infamous Nkandla-gate, the state-funded extensive upgrades to his rural homestead in which the Public Protector has found that Zuma benefited improperly. The Constitutional Court has also ruled that Zuma had failed to uphold the country's constitution, the basis for many of the calls for his resignation and failed impeachment proceedings in parliament and within the ANC over alleged state capture by the Gupta family. 
Now, Jacob Zuma, another liberation hero, a man of five honorary degrees, many Honours and Awards including Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (UK), like Robert Mugabe is down and out in not such a glorious fashion. Nevertheless, it’s still strong testimony to the political ideals they fought for, black freedom, and democracy.