Zuma--the man inside: just who is the real Jacob Zuma? This biography of Zuma by Jeremy Gordin slays some myths but raises others, as one of the most controversial and charismatic leaders in Africa takes over at the helm of one of the South's biggest and strongest economies.

Author:Williams, Stephen
Position:Zuma: A Biography - Book review

As president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma's victory in South Africa's April general election completed an unlikely transition--from a herds-boy tending the family's livestock to president of the most economically powerful country on the continent. But just who is Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma? What makes the man tick? How did he achieve his unlikely rise to become the most powerful man in Africa?

This book, an unauthorised biography, sets out to answer these questions. Jeremy Gordin, a veteran journalist of more than 30 years, who is now associate editor of South Africa's The Sunday Independent, writes a no-holds-barred study of a man whose controversial lifestyle and legal battles have been the stuff of legend to the world's media, but who remains something of an enigma to many both within and outside South Africa.

Unfortunately, this book is currently only available within South Africa. However, with Zuma now installed as South Africa's third democratically elected president, the publishers must be considering negotiating overseas rights just as they did with Andrew Feinstein's book, After the Party (see reviews African Business, May 2009).

After the Party dealt with the South African arms deal imbroglio, a scandal that involved charges being laid against Zuma that were only dropped two weeks before the April elections.

Zuma--A Biography is a complete study of Zuma's life, describing how the man came to escape his early years of poverty, his role in the anti-apartheid liberation struggle and, perhaps most revealing of all, the part he played in reconciling the Zulu nation and the Inkatha Freedom Party to work within an emerging national consensus led by the ANC.

Zuma's policeman father died when he was still an infant and his mother took the family, Jacob and two siblings, back to her parents' home at Nkandla, Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), while she found work as a domestic servant in Durban.

Much is made of the fact that Zuma missed out on schooling because his maternal grandfather needed him to look after the family's goats, and it is frequently asserted that Zuma was illiterate when imprisoned on Robben Island. But in an interview with Gordin, Zuma puts the record straight: in the evening, after the livestock were safely in the kraal and with the help of a widow called Marie and other boys who were able to attend school, he taught himself to read and write.

A Zulu boy's childhood

Other than that, his was a fairly typical rural childhood--besides tending...

To continue reading