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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 36. Jacob Zuma

The marrying kind.

The man who rose from poverty to become the fourth post-apartheid president of South Africa has survived numerous scandals to remain at the pinnacle of the Rainbow Nation. Zuma has expanded his country's economic influence - GDP is expected to grow by 3.4 per cent this year - but unemployment stands at 25.7 per cent, rising to almost 60 per cent among township youth. He has pledged to reduce this figure to 15 per cent by creating five million jobs in an Asian-style growth plan. Mocked in the western press for his polygamy (he has three wives and a fiancée and has fathered 20 children), he remains popular in South Africa and is likely to run for a second term in 2014. But having lost the support of Julius Malema, youth leader of the ruling African National Congress, he could face an internal challenge.

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter