President Jacob Zuma

In celebration of President Jacob Zuma's birthday, we are sharing some interesting facts about the leader of our country.

The early years

1. His full name is Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. The name Gedleyihlekisa means the "one who laughs while grinding his enemies". His father chose the middle name which, when the Zulu phrase is translated into English, reads, "I cannot keep quiet when someone pretends to love me with a deceitful smile".

2.His clan name is Msholozi. He was born on 12 April 1942 in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

3. Jacob Zuma had no formal education as a child. His father, a policeman, died at the end of World-War II when Zuma was five years old. After his father’s death, his mother took up employment as a domestic worker, and Zuma had to help support the family from a young age.

4. He taught himself to read and write Zulu in the bush, and excelled in stick fighting as a young boy.

5. Other than Zulu, he speaks French, Russian, Portuguese Swahili and Xhosa fluently, according to an official autobiography.

6. He began engaging in politics at age 17 when he joined the African National Congress.

7. He became a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the militant arm of ANC, in 1962, after the South African government had banned the party.

8. He joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1963.

9. While a member of the Communist party he received military training in the Soviet Union. He later joined the African National Congress’ Department of Intelligence where he was the Head of Intelligence.

10. In 1963, Zuma was arrested along with 45 recruits of the ANC. They were convicted of conspiring to overthrow the apartheid government and were consequently sentenced to prison on Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela and other prominent ANC leaders.

11. During his decade on Robben Island, President Zuma did not receive a single visitor as his mother could not afford the fare and he asked that she save the money for his siblings.

12. On Robben Island he served as a referee for the prisoners’ association football games which were organised by the prisoners’ governing body, Makana F.A, and served as the Rangers captain.

13. On leaving Robben Island, he started work at a pet shop.

14. While in exile – first in Swaziland and then in Mozambique – Zuma regarded former State President Thabo Mbeki, who he later replaced as ANC leader and President of South Africa, as his best friend.

15. In 1987 the Mozambican government ordered Zuma to leave their country. He travelled Zimbabwe, and the ANC's headquarters were then also moved there. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed Head of Underground Structures.

Scandals and low points

16. Zuma's political career has been plagued by corruption and rape allegations. He has had more than 750 corruption charges against him, according to a PBS Wide Angle interview with journalist Azad Essa, one of the founders of Daily Vox.

17. In 1999, while he was Executive Deputy President of South Africa, he faced corruption charges for an alleged mismanagement of R29 million meant to be used for strategic arms such as planes, boats, submarines and helicopters. The charges were dropped in 2003.

18. After his financial advisor Shabir Shaik was convicted of corruption and fraud, Zuma was once again thrust into the spotlight. As a result, Thabo Mbeki, then the South African President, fired him from his position as Executive Deputy

19. Zuma once faced rape charges in 2005 after a woman claimed that he raped her in his home. That rape case has come back to haunt him a number of times – most notably after the last local government elections.

20. He was criticized for his ignorance about HIV/AIDS after he claimed that he had a shower after having unprotected sex with his accuser, so that he could avoid contracting the disease.

A charismatic leader

21. He is considered to be a man of the people. Zuma is known to have a very charismatic personality, and has a background story that the average South African can relate to. Zuma's humble beginnings have earned him a huge following of staunchly loyal supporters.

On love and marriage

22. After his release from prison he was unemployed, but wanted to marry his childhood sweetheart, Sizakele Gertrude Khumalo. The wedding was finally financed, to a large extent, by one Mrs DM Wall of the West Midlands in England. She was linked to the International Defence and Aid Fund that helped sustain political activists who, upon their release from prison, often found themselves unemployable.

23. He is currently married to four women and has an estimated 21 children.

24. He has been married a total number of six times – one of his spouses died, and he divorced another.

25. In 2003, he paid a dowry of 10 cattle to ask for the hand of Swazi Princess Sebentile Dlamini. She is expected to become his fifth wife. The Swazi royal family is disgruntled because he never made any further preparations to marry the Princess since he paid the dowry.

A rundown of his wives, past and present

26. Fondly called MaKhumalo, Sizakele, 67, is Zuma’s first wife. She lives in his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu Natal province. They have no children.

27. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 60, is South Africa’s home affairs minister and has also been health minister and foreign affairs minister. The two met in exile and have four children together. They were divorced in 1998.

28. Kate Mantsho-Zuma committed suicide in 2000. She and Zuma had five children.

29. Nompumelelo Ntuli, 34, married Zuma in a traditional ceremony in his homestead in 2008. They have three children.

30. Tobeka Madiba, 37, and President Zuma were married on 4 January 2010. They have three children together.

Zuma’s HIV victory

31. The high point of Zuma’s political career is considered to be the major rollout of ARVs. Zuma’s plans to improve healthcare, especially for AIDS patients, of whom there are an estimated 6 million in SA, has led to a healthier nation with a longer life expectancy (60 years of age).

Some odd facts about the man

32. If you're into Astrology, you'd want to know that President Zuma is an Aries, born 12 April 1942. Words often used to describe the Aries sign include "optimistic", "born leader", and "enthusiastic".

33. Oxtail is his favourite meal.

34. Our president is not big on alcoholic drinks – he'd much rather have Rooibos tea with honey.

Zuma and religion

Zuma is considered quite a religious man and here what are popularly perceived to be the 10 Commandments according to Jacob Zuma:

35. Thou shalt believe in God and the ANC alone

36.The gates of heaven shall be opened only unto ANC supporters

37. Blessed shall be the ANC

38. Jesus shall return only when the ANC falls

39.Those who oppose the ANC shall be damned

40.Thy constitutional democracy shall be based on the word of God

41.The Church and God shall guide ANC government policy

42. Like Jesus, Jacob Zuma shall be persecuted

43.No man shall stand in the way of the ANC

44. No party shall be allowed to govern other than the ANC

Zuma and gay marriage

45. South Africa’s president once described same sex marriages as “a disgrace to the nation and to God,”adding: “When I was growing up, an ungqingili (a rude Zulu word for homosexual) would not have stood in front of me. I would have knocked him out,” according to Times Online (UK)

On teenage pregnancy and children who are not in school

46. The president has been saying that teenage mothers “must be taken to colleges and forced to get an education so that they can be in a position to look after themselves.” And, he says, a child who does not go to school “must be taught by force until [he or she] gets a degree. We then return him to his parents as a person who has been developed,” according to The Times (South Africa).

Issues around #Nkandla

47. The final costs of the security upgrades to the president’s Nkandla homestead are “conservatively estimated” to amount to R246 million, but could be higher.

48. The initial cost was quoted as R27 million, but it escalated rapidly after Zuma’s private architect, Minenhle Makhanya, was appointed by the department of public works. Makhanya often recommended more luxurious and expensive options and reportedly made R16.5 million (calculated as a percentage of costs) from the Nkandla project

49. The Constitutional Court ruled he had breached the constitution by failing to repay government money spent on the upgrades including a swimming pool and chicken run – which were not considered to be essential for ensuring his safety.

Zuma has received a number of prestigious awards

50. Zuma received the Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership in Washington DC, US (1998)

51. Honorary doctorates from University of Fort Hare, University of Zululand, Medical University of Southern Africa, University of Limpopo (2001), University of Zambia (2009), American University of Nigeria, University of Abomey-Calavi of Benin (2011),Texas Southern University (2011).

52. Honorary Professorship from the Peking University (PKU) of the People’s Republic of China (2012)

53. Honorary Doctorate of Leadership in Humanity from Limkokwing University, Malaysia (2013).

54. President Zuma will cost the South African taxpayer R514.1m over five years – an average of R102.8m per year; in other words, half a billion Rand.

55. Zuma gets at least R1.3m as a medical aid contribution per year, outside of his salary.

56. The budget for the Presidential Spousal Support Unit was R15 517 500 million for the 2009/10 financial year. At that time, Zuma had five wives. He now has six. So this will be a conservative estimate. The total over a five year term, at R15.5m per year, is thus at least: R77 600 000.00.

Since Zuma loves to laugh, what tickles his fancy?

57. His favourite international TV shows are Fawlty Towers and Mr Bean,

58. He has a soft spot for local comedian Leon Schuster.

59. His favourite chocolate indulgence is a Bar-One.

60. His first car was a Ford Cortina, bought from an old lady in Pietermaritzburg.

61. He was once asked if he would go on a date with Helen Zille - and he said yes!.

62. His favourite place in the world is Nkandla.

63. His favourite food is Nyama (meat).

64. His favourte time of the day is early evening when,he says, he can sit and reflect on the day.

* Sources: Politicsweb, CNN, Lead SA, Buzz South Africa, Huffington Post, SA History, Daily Nation,,

** The last five facts was part of a conversation at President Jacob Zuma's 70th birthday party at the ICC in Durban when two of his daughters asked him questions about his life

*** This article has been updated to remove a number of repeated and/or contentious facts. IOL apologises unreservedly for the oversight.