When President Jacob Zuma was a child, there was no school in Nkandla. His father died and his mother moved them to kwaMaphumulo where Zuma taught himself to read and write by borrowing books from the few kids who were lucky to afford to go to school.
Jacob Zuma so badly wanted education he arranged a night school for himself and his other friends and they paid a lady 25 cents to teach them. His mother was a widow at that time when she got a job as a domestic worker in Durban. Zuma did odd jobs too to assist his family.
As a teenager he’ll visit his mother where she worked but was not allowed inside the house so he spent that time looking for work. Then the stories of the Bambatha Rebellion began to influence his political thinking. In 1906 Zulu people had risen against British colonial rule.
Chief Bambatha had used the Nkandla forest as a base to fight the British after they had imposed policies that the people of Natal were not happy with.
So many people have done threads on that rebellion in case you want to know more about it . Back to Zuma….
His half brother Muntukabongwa Zuma who was a soldier who served in WWII, a trade union activist and ANC member played a huge role in influencing Zuma’s politics. In his visits to Durban Zuma started attending ANC gatherings.
At 16 in 1958, Zuma joined the ANC, ANCYL and joined SACTU in 1959. From 1960-63 he was attending political education classes tutored by Moses Mabhida and Stephen Dlamini. These 2 including Obed Zuma properly introduced him to politics.
In 1963 he joined MK and they were to be sent to Zambia by ferry but the apartheid government found out and intercepted them. Zuma and others were arrested in Groot Marico near Zeerust. Zuma was interrogated and beaten and held in solitary confinement for 90 days.
At 21 years old, Zuma was convicted by the apartheid government on a charge of conspiring to overthrow it. He was sentenced to 10 years in Robben Island.
When Jacob Zuma was in Robben Island, he didn’t receive not even 1 visitor. He wrote to his mother but when she wanted to come visit him, he told her to use that money to take care of his siblings. His mother was a domestic worker so money was very scarce.
In Robben Island Zuma and other comrades initiated political study groups. In ANC structures Zuma was a group leader, Public Relations Officer, cell leader and Chairman of the Political Committee, and was organising political discussions. They also fought for rights as prisoners.
Then they were given sports and Zuma played for Rangers, the Robben Island soccer team. He sang on the choral and traditional dance group, played table tennis and chess. Chess is his love to this day.
Dec 1973 he was released from Robben Island and was detained for 2 weeks in Pietermaritzburg. When he was released Phyillis Naidoo got him a job at a pet shop in Durban. But he was not done with his political activism. He resuscitated ANC underground structures in KZN (1974-75).
He was instrumental in the industrial protests where 160, 000 workers voiced their grievances. He also worked under Harry Gwala to recruit more MK members who were sent outside SA for training.
Also in 1973 he married his first wife, Sizakele Gertrude Khumalo. When Harry Gwala was arrested in 1975, Zuma had to flee to Swaziland where he met Thabo Mbeki and rumor has it Mbeki was the one who taught Zuma how to fire a gun. In 1976 he sneaked back into South Africa but was arrested when he went back to Swaziland together with Thabo Mbeki and Albert Dlomo. Oliver Tambo sent Mabhida to assist and then they were deported to Mozambique . In Moz, Zuma served as the ANC Deputy Chief Representative and later the Chief Representative.
Zuma and Mbeki were working hand in hand during this time. And after the 1976 uprising Zuma had to assist many young activists who needed to flee South Africa. In 1977 Zuma served in the ANC Maputo Regional Committee and became ANC NEC member.
He began to work with the SACP and was trained for 3 months in leadership and military by the Soviet Union. In 1984 he was elected Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC . He also served in ANC’s Military and Political Committees.
In 1986, Zuma commanded the Mandla Kuzwayo unit and were able to get top secret information on the apartheid government including the informants they used and that’s why the government asked Mozambique to expel Zuma. But the ANC deployed him to Lusaka and appointed him Chief of their Intelligence Department and head of underground structures. He and Mbeki were working with Oliver Tambo in his negotiating team.
In 1990 the ANC was unbanned and Jacob Zuma came back home to serve as ANC Chair in KZN. In 1991 he was elected as ANC’s deputy SG. After his return he was instrumental in negotiating for the release of political prisoners and those who were exiled .
I’ll stop here for now Two hearts.
As narrated by Zinhle 🕊 (@la_khumalo)