The Contender

South Africa's most popular politician is dogged by scandal and dismissed by critics as a blundering oaf. But Jacob Zuma could yet be President

Benedicte Kurzen for TIME

Former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

It's a wonder Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma still has a political career. Since 2005, he has been sacked as Deputy President of South Africa, tried and acquitted of rape and embroiled in a corruption scandal over defense contracts. He is uneducated, has somewhere from two to six wives (he refuses to confirm the exact number) and has 17 children by nine women. And at rallies of his supporters, he sings the Zulu anthem Mshini wami, which translates as "Bring me my machine gun."

Yet Zuma, 65, is the front runner to succeed Thabo Mbeki as President of South Africa. Mbeki has two...

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