Long read: Revealing the real Jacob Zuma, his achievements and success

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma gestures during a media briefing with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (not pictured) at the Union Building in Pretoria November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS)

Thandisizwe Mgudlwa

Fresh from his appointment as the new Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chair – at the 37th SADC Summit of heads of state and government held in Pretoria last week, South African President Jacob Zuma story is inspirational.


It is less than two years before the Jacob Zuma Presidency comes to an end.

Love him or not. The Jacob Zuma administration has been a huge success on many fronts.

For-instance, the social grants system has reached 17 million beneficiaries.

The school nutrition programme provides more than 9 million learners daily with food so that they can learn adequately.

It is vital to reflect on the politics, economics and philosophy of President Zuma and look at what to expect in the remaining time he has in office.

For example, more recently, Zuma said, Africa’s youth are impatient for change and have been very clear in calling for leaders to address exclusion, poverty and unemployment. 

Zuma was speaking to the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa last week on May 4.

The 2017, World Economic Forum on Africa took place on 3-5 May in Durban, South Africa, under the theme Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership, noted the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS).

“For us to move forward,” said Zuma, we need that energy, we need that imagination which young people bring.”

However, to meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require skills as well as energy, he alerted.

Zuma acknowledged that Africa has many young people who possess qualifications but are not easily employable.

They lack the “scarce” skills needed to deal with rapid technological change.

Given slow global growth, unemployment among young people looms as an enormous issue.

As a result, “education is project number one in our country,” said Zuma, but government needs business, unions and civil society to help create bridges for young people to enter the job market.

Zuma spoke of driving a radical economic transformation to take African economies on the path to inclusive growth.

“As leaders, we have not addressed adequately how we are going to close the gap between the rich and the poor,” admitted the SA president.

Intra-Africa trade and regional integration have been identified as a high priority.

Investing in infrastructure remains top of the agenda, to ease the movement of goods, people and service across Africa.

Work to “soften” borders between countries, often imposed by outsiders looking to divide and rule, will further boost integration.

Africa needs to diversify its economies, as revealed by the recent slump in commodity prices.

The Southern Africa region has identified labour-intensive manufacturing as a key priority. As well as a greater focus on developing agriculture and the “ocean economy”.

To succeed will require mobilizing sufficient financing.

Africa must develop local capital markets and raise domestic resources through more-effective taxation.

More important, however, is “to arrest illicit financial flows,” said Zuma, who added: “Billions are taken out of Africa each year and this is money that should be used to fund our development.”

The president called on global decision-makers to assist Africa in fighting money laundering, tax evasion and other economic crimes.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, identified the crisis of leadership as a common theme across the world.

Schwab called on Africa’s older generation of leaders to act as role models for the younger generation.

He quoted the three key values of a leader shared with him by Nelson Mandela, to respect human dignity and diversity, to serve the community you belong to and not your self-interest, and to act as a trustee for future generations.

The 2017, World Economic Forum on Africa is took place on 3-5 May in Durban, South Africa, under the theme Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership.

The meeting convened regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society to explore solutions to create economic opportunities for all.

It also provides insight from leading experts on how Africa will be affected by the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Particularly, in terms of safeguarding the region’s economies from negative disruption and exploiting opportunities for further growth and development

At a Presidential summit Zuma said, ” At the Second Presidential Summit in Cape Town, there was agreement that local government performance should be improved to ensure provision of basic services and that people’s needs are met.

The objective of the Back to Basics programme launched in 2014, is to create well-functioning municipalities that serve their communities better.

It encompasses five pillars;

Putting people first and ensuring effective public participation platforms for them.

Creating conditions for decent living by consistently delivering municipal services to the right quality and standard. This includes planning for and delivery of infrastructure and amenities, maintenance and upkeep.

Thirdly, good governance, efficient administration and accountability.

The fourth is sound financial management and accounting, prudent management of resources and the fifth, sound institutional and administrative capabilities at all levels.

This Summit is now an opportune time, at the beginning of the new term of local government, to deliberate about the priorities for the next five years.

As this is the first time since the last local government elections that we meet formally, let me welcome our newly elected and returning councillors and thank them for availing themselves for national service.

I would like to congratulate all municipalities – councillors and municipal staff – who have made a difference in changing peoples’ lives and living conditions.

But before we consider the challenges going forward, let us reflect on the achievements and progress we have made over the last two decades in changing people’s lives and living conditions.

According to the latest General Household Survey of Statistics South Africa, the progress achieved between 2002 and 2015 includes an increase from seventy-seven percent to eighty five percent in the number of households with access to electricity.

We achieved an increase from eighty five percent to more than ninety percent of households with access to piped water.
Also, the share of households obtaining sanitation services went up from sixty-two percent to eighty percent.

At the time of the survey more seventy eight percent of South African households lived in formal dwellings, followed by fourteen percent who lived in informal dwellings, and seven percent in traditional dwellings.

Fourteen percent of South African households were living in RDP or state-subsidised dwellings. In addition, eighteen percent female-headed households received a government housing subsidy, whilst twelve percent of male-headed households received a government housing subsidy.

It must be mentioned that South Africa’s population during this period, also increased from about forty million in 2001, to about fifty five million in 2015, and our people are living longer thanks to our improved health services among others.

Although we can be proud of the above achievements we still must confront a number of challenges. I will mention just a few.

We have a high number of households without access to piped water. We have bad roads, poor quality in some of our RDPs, a crumbling water infrastructure and poor sewage systems in some areas. We also face poor financial management in some municipalities and insufficient revenue collection.

There is also still poor interaction between Councillors and communities in some municipalities.

We are aware of these challenges and affected municipalities should work harder and faster to correct them, which is why we come together as we are doing this week.

This Summit aims to provide strategic direction for the new term of local government.

What made Nelson Mandela great, was precisely what made him human. We saw in him, what we seek in ourselves.

Even if you apply any kind of lotion and straighten your hair you will never be white.


People are constantly applying double standards. Take the United States, for example. Washington wants the whole world to admire the country for its democracy. Then the government sends out its army, in the name of this democracy, and leaves behind the kind of chaos we see in Iraq.


Criminality is always the result of poverty. Countries that experience such a fundamental change as we have – we had the apartheid regime and must now develop a multicultural democracy – must necessarily pass through a phase of high crime rates.


The majority in this country have not seen anything wrong with Zuma. I go with the overwhelming feeling of this country. If the majority say, ‘Zuma, do this,’ I will do it.


When I joined the ANC, I never thought I would be anything. In no way, did I say, ‘One day I could be the president. I think I am good material for the presidency.’ Not at all. (Here he is explaining that the ANC deploys its cadres, rather than individuals being better than other cadres).

There is no cloud above my head – there is not even a mist.

Africa suffered under European dominance for centuries.

As a citizen of this country, I’ve got to be honest to the people of South Africa.

We South Africans are also crazy about football, so the World Cup can be nothing but successful.”

In a speech delivered at the UN General Assembly on in 2014, Zuma committed himself to rally the world behind South Africa’s campaign to transform the UNSC and for Africa to have permanent seats in the council.

The UNSC comprises 15 members, five of them – Britain, France, China, the United States and Russia – are permanent, while 10 are non-permanent members that serve for two years on a rotational basis without veto power. South Africa has been calling for this to change.

“Let me reiterate that the 70th anniversary of the UN next year provides an opportunity for us to seriously reflect on the need to reform this august body, moving beyond words to action, Zuma declared.

“Ten years ago, world leaders celebrating the 60th anniversary of the UN agreed on the need for reform of the United Nations Security Council in particular,” President Zuma said to rumbling applause.

In a loud and clear message to the more than 120 leaders, who converged at the UN Headquarters for the UNGA General Debate, President Zuma said the UN can no longer afford to have Africa out of the UNSC on a permanent basis.

“When we converge here next year, on the 70th year of the UN, we should be able to adopt a concrete programme that will guide us towards a strengthened UN and a reformed Security Council.”

President Zuma also noted that some “contentious aspects” of the UN system, such as the veto powers and the exclusion of regions such as Africa in the Security Council, were some of the critical matters that cannot be ignored in the quest for transformation.

The UNSC is the UN’s most powerful body. It helps to shape international law and is the first to respond to crises. This places Africa in a precarious position, considering that most issues the council has to deal with emanate from the continent.

Apart from the call to reform the UN, President Zuma’s remarks, as anticipated, focused on the progress South Africa has made in attaining its Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), whose deadline of September next year looms larger.

President Zuma continued, “South Africa has recorded impressive progress through the expansion of health infrastructure and improved access to health services for all South Africans.”

“On the reduction of child mortality, MDG 4, and the improvement of maternal health, MDG 5, significant progress has been recorded, but more work remains. In fact, more work remains worldwide to fully achieve these goals, especially in the developing world,” he said.

He said Africa had to confront those underlying root causes that continued to make it impossible for its people to have a better life.

Despite the progress that the continent has made, reports continued to show that Africa is lagging behind in terms of the attainment of some of the MDGs.

“It is for this reason that we appreciate the crafting of a post-2015 Global Development Agenda that will carry forward the unfinished business of the MDGs. The eight MDGs were adopted by the UN in 2000 and set clear targets in improving conditions in a wide range of areas, including halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“The General Assembly has proposals to replace the MDGs with what is being referred to as the new Sustainable Development Goals, which outline 17 goals and 169 targets.

This is part of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, which aims to carry forward the work of the MDGs that have just eight goals and 21 targets.”

Zuma was cleared by courts of law of any allegations levelled against his during his political career.
ANC structures held their nominations conferences in October and November 2007, where Zuma appeared favourite for the post of ANC President, and, by implication, the President of South Africa in 2009. With then-incumbent ANC- and South African President Thabo Mbeki as his opposition, Zuma was elected President of the ANC on 18 December 2007.
After the general election in 2009, Zuma became the President of South Africa. And at the December 2012 National Conference, Zuma was re-elected as President of the ANC.
Zuma has proven indeed that he is not just a politician but also a man of the people throughout his various foundations.
In keeping with the results-driven approach of its Patron, the Jacob Zuma Foundation strives to respond effectively, efficiently and within its valued accountability, to the needs of beneficiary communities.
“A hungry child cannot be expected to concentrate and do well in class,” says Jacob Zuma
The Jacob Zuma Foundation prides itself on its ethics, integrity and credibility and is respected both locally and internationally for its commitment to the socio-economic upliftment of the poor. The Foundation is committed to broadening its network of donor partners to enable life-changing upliftment of impoverished South Africans.
Meanwhile, the Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust was formed in 1995 by its Patron, President Zuma, who was a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal at that time.
Using an RDP Discretionary Fund of R500 000, which was provided to each MEC to establish a project of his/her choice, Zuma opted to focus his attention on providing access to education for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and youth in society. 
This focus on education was as a result of his firm belief in education being the most real and sustainable form of empowerment.
The Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust started its work in KwaZulu-Natal, and has since extended its footprints to the Eastern Cape and the Limpopo Provinces.  It strategic objective is to extend its reach to the rest of South Africa within the next three to five years.
The Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust is governed by a Board of Trustees comprising representatives from the private sector, former beneficiaries of the Trust and academics. 
The day-to-day operations are managed by a team led by the Chief Executive Officer, with offices in Durban, Inkandla, East London, Polokwane and Johannesburg.
Over the years, the Jacob G Zuma RDP Education Trust has benefited over 20 000 young people.  Currently, it is supporting 1 200 young people at tertiary and basic education levels. 
The Trust depends, mainly, on donations and sponsorships to advance its objectives. It has forged strategic partnerships with organizations such as Cipla South Africa, Camac International Corporation and MerSeta on educational matters of common interest. 
The Trust has a policy of utilizing a least 80% of all money raised towards its core business and 20% or less towards its operations.  On a yearly basis, it is audited by PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PWC).
Since coming into office in 2009 President Zuma has created key programmes, policies and enjoyed a fair amount of successes, including South Africa’s inclusion in the group of the fastest growing economies of the world, BRIC, now known as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).
The Zuma government has also initiated the New Growth Path (NGP), a new framework for economic policy and the driver of the country’s jobs strategy. Others are the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP).

IPAP is predicated on the need to bring about significant structural change to the South African economy; and the big one, the National Development Plan (NDP), Vision 2030, the NDP offers a long-term perspective. It defines a desired destination and identifies the role different sectors of society need to play in reaching that goal.

“The NDP aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.”

The NGP, IPAP and National Infrastructure Development Programme among others have been included in the National Development Plan.
The following universities have awarded Zuma honorary degrees:
University of Zululand Awarded in 2001 Honorary Doctor of Administration;
University of Fort Hare Awarded in 2001, Honorary Doctor of Literature/Letters;
University of  Medicine of South Africa Awarded in 2001, Honorary Doctor of Philosophy and Peking University Beijing, China, Awarded in July 2012 Honorary Professor of International Relations.
Achievements & Awards include the King Hintsa Bravery Award in 2012; Jose Marti Award in 2010, Cuba’s highest award;
African President of the Year by the African Consciousness Media and the Kenneth Kaunda Foundation in 2009; and the Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership in 1998.
Activities & Memberships include Umkhonto We Sizwe Active Member, 1962 – 1990; 
African National Congress Member, 1959 – present; Albert Luthuli Education and Development Foundation as Patron;
Peace and Reconstruction Foundation as Patron;
Jacob Zuma Bursary Fund at Patron, 1998 – present; and the Moral Regeneration Movement as Patron.

With Zuma as its president, South Africa has become a member of the fastest and biggest growing economies of the world, the BRICS blog; former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has just return from heading the African Union Commission as its Chairperson; at least 20 global awards won by cabinet ministers under Zuma’s government; in 2016 Zuma was appointed by UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon to co-chair the United Nations commission on health employment and economic growth alongside his French counterpart, François Hollande.

Coming into office in 2009 President Jacob Zuma spearheaded the mission to have the United Nations declaring Madiba’s birthday on July 18, as the Mandela Day.

Every year on 18 July — the day Nelson Mandela was born — the UN joins a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of our time to helping others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.

For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

The world must bestow the highest honours on Zuma as has been done among the other great leaders of our time.

Honours and awards:

Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Medical University of Southern Africa, awarded in Washington, D.C. (1998);

African President of the Year by the African Consciousness Media and the Kenneth Kaunda Foundation in 2009;

During a visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, Jacob Zuma was made an honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

Jose Marti Award in 2010, Cuba’s highest award;

In 2011, Rael, spiritual leader of the International Raelian Movement, awarded Zuma the title “Honorary Guide for Humanity;

King Hintsa Bravery Award in 2012;

President Jacob Zuma receives King Makhado Bravery Award (2013)

President Jacob Zuma Receives Joint Presentation of Credentials from India, Pakistan, China (2017)

Heads-designate from nine countries presented their credentials to President Jacob Zuma.

They are United Arab Emirates, Republic of Turkey, Republic of Poland, Kingdom of Swaziland, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Benin, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania and Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Honorary degrees

University of Zululand (2001), Honorary Doctor of Administration

University of Fort Hare (2001), Honorary Doctor of Literature/Letters

Medical University of Southern Africa (2001), Honorary Doctor of Philosophy

University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Campus (2009), Honorary Doctor of Law

Peking University (2012), Honorary Professor of International Relations