Produced by Joe Sinclair, filmed by James Sandy, additional footage: Reuters
He started as a revolutionary hero and a hugely popular revolutionary hero. He was one of the great stars of the show. He'd spent 10 years on Robben Island in the '60s and the early '70s. He was known then as being the great lifter of morale. Well, I spoke to one of his former comrades who said when they went on the boat to Robben Island, they were all terribly depressed. They thought it's all over. The apartheid regime's crushed them. He was singing to lift their spirits up.
I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa.
Amazingly, he did become president. I say amazingly - he had something like 700 counts of corruption hanging over him. But he outmanoeuvred his rival Thabo Mbeki, who was Nelson Mandela's successor. And he partly did that via his people skills. He was brilliant at going around the country and making people feel good about things. They'd felt neglected by Thabo Mbeki, who was a bit of an austere chilly figure.
And I remember meeting Zuma several times in those years. And he's a master politician at saying all the right things and making you feel at ease. And I was asking him about FT things to do with investment. And he chuckle and said: don't you worry. I believe in investment. And we'll do this. And we'll do that. And so he sort of mollified some of his critics. But all the while, he was presiding over an increasingly corrupt system.
You and your government don't represent me.
In the end, he did, tragically, turn into a stereotype, a stereotype of an autocratic leader who increasingly is blurring the divide, or was blurring the divide, between ruling party and state.
The fact that South Africa has managed to reject him is unbelievably important. This really is a line in the sand. If he had stayed on in power and then managed to get one of his backers to succeed him, that would've been an utter, utter disaster. As it is, this is a potential turning point.
He was the president of South Africa at a time when South Africa was the unofficial leader of the continent. And the world had high expectations of it. And he blew it, utterly. So he will go down in history as an utterly corrupted and disgraced leader, who led South Africa several steps in the wrong direction. And it's not yet clear that South Africa can recover the ground that it lost under Jacob Zuma.