Zuma served as Deputy President of South Africa from 1999 to 2005, but was dismissed by President Thabo Mbeki in 2005 after Zuma's financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of soliciting a bribe for Zuma. Zuma was nonetheless elected President of the African National Congress (ANC) on 18 December 2007 after defeating Mbeki at the ANC conference in Polokwane. On 20 September 2008, Mbeki announced his resignation after being recalled by the ANC's National Executive Committee. The recall came after South African High Court Judge Christopher Nicholson ruled Mbeki had improperly interfered with the operations of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including the prosecution of Jacob Zuma for corruption.
Zuma led the ANC to victory in the 2009 general election and was elected President of South Africa. He was re-elected as ANC leader at the ANC conference in Mangaung on 18 December 2012, defeating challenger Kgalema Motlanthe by a large majority, and remained president of South Africa after the 2014 general election, although his party suffered a decline in support, partly due to growing dissatisfaction with Zuma as president.
Zuma has faced significant legal challenges before and during his presidency. He was charged with rape in 2005, but was acquitted. He has fought a long legal battle over allegations of racketeering and corruption, resulting from his financial advisor Schabir Shaik's conviction for corruption and fraud. On 6 April 2009, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges against Zuma, citing political interference, although the decision was successfully challenged by opposition parties, and as of February 2018 the charges were before the NPA for reconsideration. After extensive state-funded upgrades to his rural homestead at Nkandla, the Public Protector found that Zuma had benefited improperly from the expenditure, and the Constitutional Court unanimously held in 2016's Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker of the National Assembly that Zuma had failed to uphold the country's constitution, resulting in calls for his resignation and a failed impeachment attempt in the National Assembly. He has also been implicated in reports of state capture through his friendship with the influential Gupta family. He has survived multiple motions of no confidence, both in parliament and within the ANC.
On 18 December 2017, Cyril Ramaphosa was elected to succeed Zuma as President of the ANC at the ANC Conference at Nasrec, Johannesburg. Subsequent months saw growing pressure on Zuma to resign as President of South Africa, culminating in the ANC "recalling" him as President of South Africa. Facing a motion of no confidence in parliament, Zuma announced his resignation on 14 February 2018, and was succeeded by Ramaphosa the next day.
Zuma was born in Nkandla, Natal Province (now part of the province of KwaZulu-Natal). His father was a policeman who died when Zuma was five, and his mother was a domestic worker. His middle name, Gedleyihlekisa, means "one who smiles while causing you harm" in Zulu. He received no formal schooling.