Jacob Zuma has just become the new president of South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress.
This means that Zuma will almost certainly become South African president when Thabo Mbeki steps down in 2009.
Zuma is a hardline leftist with impeccable revolutionary credentials.
He (Zuma)involved himself in politics at an early age and joined the African National Congress in 1959. He became an active member of Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1962, following the banning of the ANC in 1960.
In 1963, he was arrested with a group of 45 recruits near Zeerust in the western Transvaal, currently part of the North West Province. Convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government, he was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, which he served on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela and other notable ANC leaders who were also imprisoned there.
After his release, he was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in the Natal province.
He left South Africa in 1975, based first in Swaziland and then Mozambique, and dealt with the arrival of thousands of exiles in the wake of the Soweto uprising.
He became a member of the ANC National Executive Committee in 1977. He also served as Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC in Mozambique, a post he occupied until the signing of the Nkomati Accord between the Mozambican and South African governments in 1984. After signing the Accord, he was appointed as Chief Representative of the ANC.
Zuma was forced to leave Mozambique in January 1987 after considerable pressure on the Mozambican government by the PW Botha regime. He moved to the ANC Head Office in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was appointed Head of Underground Structures and shortly thereafter Chief of the Intelligence Department.
He served on the ANC’s political and military council when it was formed in the mid-1980s.
Zuma’s main backers in the battle for the ANC presidency were the the ANC Youth League, the Young Communist League, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party.
In effect this means SACP backing as the latter organisation controls the three former.