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third president of postapartheid South Africa, was born 12 April 1942 in Nkandla, the eldest son of Nobhekisisa Zuma and his second wife, Geinamazwi. His father was a policeman, who died when Zuma was about four years old; his mother was a domestic worker in Durban. During his humble upbringing in this poor area of Zululand (part of what is now KwaZulu-Natal), Zuma was animated by stories of Chief Bambatha’s rebellion against colonialism that had taken place only thirty-six years before Zuma’s birth. Never formally schooled—working instead as a herd boy from a young age—Zuma attained some education by paying an older girl in his village to tutor him.

Influenced by a politically active half brother and by the activism he encountered on visits to his mother in Durban Zuma joined the African National Congress ANC at seventeen His earliest activities related to the South African Congress of Trade Unions ...