Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Zuma sets comeback campaign in motion

WASTING NO TIME South Africa's former deputy president said he wouldn't say no to running for president, but a corruption trial in July could hinder his chances


South Africa's former deputy president Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday he was willing to run in the next presidential election, wasting no time launching a political comeback attempt after his acquittal on rape charges.

Zuma said he was immediately resuming his duties at the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which alone would decide whether to nominate him to succeed President Thabo Mbeki in 2009.

Zuma also said he had never refused a task asked of him by the ANC and would not do so now if the party nominated him to run for president when Mbeki steps down in 2009. The Constitution bars Mbeki from seeking a third term.

ANC spokesman Steyn Speed said the party's powerful National Executive Committee would hold a meeting on Sunday to discuss Zuma's role. He is still the party's deputy president.

"It has been called chiefly to discuss the deputy president's intention to resume his duties," he said.

Zuma was acquitted on Monday of raping a 31-year-old HIV-positive AIDS activist and family friend at his Johannesburg home last November. His testimony in the trial about having unprotected consensual sex with the woman brought him a scolding from the judge, raised questions about his judgment and angered AIDS activists who said he set a terrible example and demonstrated a shocking ignorance about how the virus that causes AIDS is transmitted.

Political analysts say despite his acquittal the 64-year-old Zuma will have an uphill task to regain his former political prominence, particularly given that he faces a potentially far more damaging trial on separate corruption charges in July.

"This is not the make-or-break of Zuma's political career. The more serious one casting a big shadow over his career is the next big case to come," said Phillip Wenzel, a lecturer in politics at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand.

Zuma's plans

* After being acquitted of rape, Jacob Zuma said he would immediately resume his duties as deputy president of the ANC.

* An ANC spokesman said the party would discuss Zuma's role on Sunday.

* Analysts say that a corruption trial in July will be a bigger test for Zuma's political career than the rape trial.

* Zuma said he believed the public would see through what he described as a political campaign against him.

Zuma told reporters he was confident the South African public would see through what he again described as a shadowy political campaign against him.

"The campaign is clear, I don't think anyone does not see there is a campaign," Zuma said, again declining to specify who he believed was behind the alleged plot.

Both the rape charges and the corruption case have fueled accusations by Zuma's supporters that he is being politically sidelined by his enemies in the ANC -- often seen as shorthand for Mbeki.

But asked if he thought Mbeki was behind his troubles, Zuma replied: "No, I don't see anything in that direction ... but I don't think it's a matter I want to discuss."

Mbeki sacked Zuma as national deputy president last year after he was implicated in the corruption case.

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