Zuma Dismisses Mbeki Conspiracy
Mail and Guardian
Donwald Pressly, I-Net Bridge, Sapa
Former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma dismissed suggestions on Tuesday that President Thabo Mbeki had played a part in his rape trial and upcoming corruption trial.
"No, I have not said anything in that direction. I would not want to discuss that matter," he told the Cape Talk 567 radio station on Tuesday afternoon.
Asked whether he thought it fit that Mbeki should re-stand as African National Congress (ANC) president next year at the annual conference of the ruling movement, he sidestepped the issue and said: "I wouldn't like to discuss this in the media. That matter is a matter to be discussed by the ANC. I would not like to preempt what the ANC would like to discuss."
Mbeki has hinted that he would be available for re-election as the party's leader next year -- although his term as the nation's president must end in 2009.
Asked why he had received such vast support from ANC masses -- even during a rape trial -- Zuma said it was because he belonged to the African National Congress. "I am one of them, one of those leaders. People identify me as one of them. ... As a person who will fight to the last degree with them."
Asked about his relationship with Mbeki, he said he had met him every week in meetings of the ANC until he was charged with rape. Then he, Zuma, had not participated in the workings of the ruling movement and had seen him less. During this time he had met Mbeki "once or twice".
"Earlier he did call me on one or two occasions ... I don't think our relationship has changed. I am sure I am going to talk to him every week [now]."
Zuma indicated that he had requested that he return to all duties in the ruling movement in his capacity as its deputy president.
He noted that a return to the nation's deputy president was "not in my hands".
Zuma also said the woman who accused him of rape should not be vilified.
"She deserves to live a fruitful and harmonious life as a citizen of this country," he told reporters in Johannesburg.
Zuma, who was acquitted on Monday of having raped the HIV-positive woman, reiterated that he was HIV-negative, saying: "I have periodically determined my HIV status and will continue to take the necessary measures to protect myself."
Zuma read from a prepared statement in his first media appearance since his acquittal.
He apologised "unconditionally" for having had unprotected sex with the woman.
"I should have known better and acted with greater responsibility. I erred on this issue and on this I apologise."
He urged the youth to prevent the spread of the disease and fight the stigma associated with it.
Zuma said he remained "unwavering" in fighting against gender-based violence, in line with the principles of his party.
He said it was "unfortunate" that his statements in court were taken out of context and seen as policy statements on HIV/Aids.
With acknowledgement to Donwald Pressly, I-Net Bridge, Sapa and Mail & Guardian.