S African prez expresses regret over affair

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa’s polygamist president has apologised to the nation after being criticised for having an extramarital affair that resulted in a daughter born in October.

Analysts had argued that the love child revelations would have little impact because South African voters overwhelmingly supported Jacob Zuma in last year’s election even though he was an unabashed polygamist who

had admitted to having sex outside marriage. But Zuma has had to make two public statements on the matter, a sign he and his advisers may be worried that South Africans will hold him to higher standards now that he is president.

“The matter, though private, has been a subject of much public discussion and debate,” Zuma said in the latest statement, issued on Saturday. “It has put a lot of pressure on my family and my organisation, the African National Congress. I also acknowledge and understand the reaction of many South Africans.”

He added: “I deeply regret the pain that I have caused to my family, the ANC, ... and South Africans in general.” Three days earlier, Zuma confirmed a South African newspaper’s report of the affair. In that earlier statement, he expressed no regrets and criticised the media and rivals for making a political issue out of what he insisted was a private matter. Helen Zille, head of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, had said Zuma should resign if he was unwilling to accept public scrutiny and criticism. In response to his expression of regret, Zille said her party “welcomes President Zuma’s apology to the South African public.“But words are not enough, he must now focus on repairing the damage he has done to the fight against HIV/AIDS,” she said.