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Jacob Zuma was elected president of South Africa in 2009. In 2007, he won the presidency of the African National Congress, the country's leading political party.
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Continuing with his political ascent, Zuma was appointed executive deputy president of South Africa by Thabo Mbeki in 1999, after Mbeki won the presidency. As part of his vision for the country, Mbeki created a special unit—known informally as "the Scorpions"—to investigate corruption. Later that year, the South-African government announced that it had reached a deal to buy 29 million rand worth of strategic arms—planes, boats,
helicopters and submarines. This deal has haunted Zuma for years. He and other members of the government were investigated when financial irregularities were discovered. Initially cleared in a 2001 report on the matter, Zuma ended up facing corruption charges, but those charges were dropped in 2003.
Zuma's legal woes resurfaced in 2005 after his financial advisor, Shabir Shaik, was convicted of corruption and fraud. Zuma was again charged with corruption for taking a bribe in connection with 1999 arms deal. As a result, he was fired by President Mbeki.
In December 2005, Zuma was charged with raping a woman in his home. Pleading not guilty, Zuma stood on trial in Johannesburg for several months in early 2006. During the trial, Zuma was criticized for his ignorance about the transmission of HIV/AIDS. His accuser was HIV positive and Zuma said that they had sex without protection and that he showered after having sex to avoid getting the virus. This was big news for a country has been battling a HIV/AIDS epidemic. After the judge ruled that the sex was consensual, Zuma was acquitted of the charge in May.
In the fall of 2006, the corruption charges against Zuma were thrown out by a judge. However, the door was left open for charges to be filed against him in the future. Free of legal challenges, Zuma was soon running for the presidency of the ANC. He took on former friend and president Mbeki for control of their political party. Mbeki has been viewed a moderate politician who had helped steadily grow the country’s economy, which is one of the strongest in Africa. But some see him as aloof and removed from the people.
In direct contrast, Jacob Zuma has positioned himself as a man of the people. He came from very humble beginnings and lost his police officer father when he was only 4 years old. To help his family after his father's death, Zuma did odd jobs to bring in money while his mother was employed as a domestic worker. With no time for school, he taught himself how to read and write. His triumph over his early struggles makes Zuma an appealing figure to many South Africans. He also capitalized his history as a guerilla fighter to show himself to be a man of action and has used the song, "Bring Me My Machine Gun," as his anthem.
When Zuma defeated Mbeki in December 2007, it was seen as a sign of impending change for South Africa. Strongly supported by the unions and some communist party officials, he is seen a likely move to the left from the centrist positions of Mbeki, according to a report from the Pretoria News.
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