In the headlines ... for the wrong reasons
President Jacob Zuma has survived
one scandal after another during his career. Here are some of the
most important ones.
Before taking office, Zuma was acquitted in 2006 of charges of raping
a much younger HIV-positive woman, based on his testimony that the
sex was consensual. He shocked the nation by saying he had taken a
shower after sex to avoid contracting the virus. The president has
also sparked criticism with his polygamous lifestyle – he currently
has four wives – and has reportedly sired children out of wedlock.
CLEARING WAY FOR 2009 WIN
A court challenge is currently under way to reinstate 783 corruption
charges against Zuma that were dropped shortly before he won the 2009
elections. The charges are related to a multi-million-dollar arms
deal signed in 1999 when Zuma was deputy president. The charges had
been dropped by prosecutors arguing that the case was politically
motivated, a move which critics see as having cleared the way for
Zuma to win the elections.
The corruption scandal perhaps most damaging for Zuma was related to
his rural homestead in Nkandla. An anti-graft ombudsman ruled in 2014
that he had unduly used taxpayers’ money for upgrades to the
homestead. Zuma defeated impeachment proceedings over the scandal in
April 2016, but was ordered by the Constitutional Court and the
Treasury to repay the government 7.8 million rand (587,800 dollars).
Zuma has also come under fire over alleged influence-peddling
involving the Gupta business family, which reportedly secured
government tenders and even influenced ministerial appointments. Last
year, former anti-graft ombudsman Thuli Madonsela released a report
calling for a judicial investigation into the allegations.
In May, thousands of emails leaked to the press reportedly exposed
the close relations between Zuma, his allies and the three Gupta
brothers, suggesting that they hosted cabinet ministers and directors
of state-owned companies on luxury trips to their home in Dubai. Zuma
denied reports that the Guptas had been preparing to set up a second
home for him in Dubai.
FINANCE MINISTER WHO?
In December 2015, Zuma suddenly fired popular finance minister
Nhlanhla Nene, replacing him with an unknown legislator. The
appointment sparked an outcry which forced Zuma to replace the
parliamentarian with former finance minister Pravin Gordhan within a
few days. In March, Zuma sacked Gordhan, further undermining investor
confidence and prompting two ratings agencies to downgrade South
Africa’s credit rating to junk.
TROUBLE WITH THE ICC
In March 2016, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a judgement that
Zuma’s government had acted illegally when failing to arrest Sudanese
President Omar al-Bashir, wanted for war crimes by the International
Criminal Court, when he was attending an African Union summit in
Johannesburg in 2015. The blow to South Africa’s reputation is
believed to have contributed to its decision to leave the ICC in
October 2016. In July, the ICC ruled that South Africa had violated
its rules when failing to arrest al-Bashir.