Clearing the path to power
WHEN acting head of public prosecutions Mokotedi Mpshe stepped up on April 6 2009 and announced corruption charges against Jacob Zuma had been dropped, the writing was on the wall that the man from Nkandla was heading for the Union Buildings.
Having been acquitted of rape, beaten opponent Thabo Mbeki to lead the most powerful organisation in the country, the corruption charges that had hung over Zuma’s head for four years were the only obstacle preventing him from assuming the highest office in the land.
And on that Monday afternoon, while watching the live announcement from his Forest Town, Johannesburg home, Zuma knew his rise to the position of president was inevitable.
The disclaimer from Mpshe that dropping the charges did not amount to an acquittal was simply the last jab from the National Prosecuting Authority, an organisation whose determination to bring Zuma down got the better of it.
The NPA was politically tainted and its credibility severely compromised.
Zuma was facing 16 charges linked to the multibillion-rand government arms deal, comprising one of racketeering, one of money laundering, two of corruption and 12 of fraud.
The NPA’s decision had relieved Zuma of the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law.
Moreover, it robbed South Africans of the right to know whether or not the man holding the highest office in the land had played a part in the country’s biggest corruption scandal.
Ridiculed – and admired
TO his critics, he was South Africa’s worst nightmare.
However, for his supporters who had fought hard to see him become president, Jacob Zuma represented much-desired change.
Zuma is indeed different from his predecessors. His personal life was a public spectacle before he was elected president in 2009 and he overcame two legal woes – an ugly rape trial and unproven corruption charges.
He was ridiculed nationally and internationally for being a polygamist who had fathered more than 20 children, and the news of another baby from an extramarital affair with the daughter of a friend months into his presidency drew even harsher criticism, his integrity being questioned.
Amid the controversy, Zuma stepped up to make his first State of the Nation address, in which he was expected to deliver his plan on how to deal with corruption, poverty and crumbling health and education systems.
The next year, he promised accelerated government delivery and a new focus on industrial policy to spur growth and job creation.
Last year, he announced a plan to create five million jobs by 2020.
Zuma has also taken slow but bold steps in the fight against corruption. Last October, he suspended police commissioner General Bheki Cele and fired public works minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka over various mismanagement allegations.