Zuma's five biggest career scandals

Zuma had been in power since 2009 and faced numerous allegations of corruption. (Graphic: John McCann)

Zuma had been in power since 2009 and faced numerous allegations of corruption. (Graphic: John McCann)

With the resignation of President Jacob Zuma with immediate effect, comes an end to a controversial and turbulent period in South Africa’s political history.

Zuma, 75, had been in power since 2009 and faced numerous allegations of corruption.

Here are five of his biggest scandals:

Rape charges and HIV

Before taking office, Zuma was put on trial in 2006 for rape.

Zuma said the sex with the 31-year-old family friend Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, known by many by the name ‘Khwezi’,  was consensual and he was acquitted.

But he told the court he had showered to avoid contracting HIV after having unprotected sex with his HIV-positive accuser – a common but dangerous myth.

Zuma was head of the South African National AIDS Council at the time, and was pilloried for his ignorance.

He is still mocked in newspaper cartoons, which often depict him with a shower nozzle sprouting from his bald head.

Nearly a fifth of South Africans aged between 15 and 49 are HIV-positive.

Nkandla costs

Zuma was found by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in 2014 to have “benefited unduly” from so-called security upgrades to his rural Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal province. It said he should refund some of the money.

The work, paid for with taxpayers’ money, cost R246-million and included a ‘firepool’, a chicken run, a cattle enclosure, an amphitheatre and a visitors’ centre.

For two years, Zuma fought the order to repay part of the money. The scandal came to dominate his presidency – with opposition lawmakers chanting “Pay back the money!” every time he appeared in parliament.

In March 2016 he was ordered by the Constitutional Court to pay back some of the funds, R7.8-million, and suffered a stinging rebuke from the justices who accused him of failing to respect and uphold the constitution.

Guptagate

As the Nkandla debacle built to a climax, its place in the headlines was overtaken by a new scandal, known as ‘Guptagate’.

It involved the president’s allegedly corrupt relationship with a wealthy family of Indian immigrants headed by three brothers – Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta – who built a business empire in mining, media, technology and engineering.

Reports of the family’s undue influence on the president burst into flames in 2016 when evidence emerged they allegedly offered key government jobs to those who might help their business interests.

Ousted deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas revealed that the Guptas had offered him a promotion shortly before Zuma sacked respected finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015.

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) laid corruption charges against the Guptas and Zuma’s son Duduzani.

Arms deal

In October 2017, after a marathon legal campaign by the DA, the Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Zuma was liable for prosecution over 783 counts of corruption relating to the 1990s arms deal.

The accusations relate to a multi-billion-dollar arms deal signed in 1999, when Zuma was deputy president.
He allegedly accepted bribes from international arms manufacturers to influence the choice of weaponry.

Zuma’s advisor, Schabir Shaik, was jailed for 15 years in 2005. He was released on medical parole in 2009, the year Zuma became president.

After he leaves office, Zuma faces the risk of jail over 18 criminal charges over the 783 payments he received.

Omar al-Bashir

In March 2016, the South African Supreme Court of Appeal upheld a judgement that the failure by Zuma’s government to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was illegal.

Despite an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in the conflict in Darfur, Bashir was allowed to attend a meeting of the African Union in Johannesburg in 2015.

The government said the fact that he was attending the summit as a head of state meant he had immunity, but the court disagreed.

Zuma escaped an impeachment attempt over the issue in parliament in September 2016, when ANC lawmakers voted overwhelmingly against it.

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