The spokesman for South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has dismissed reports the country’s leader is in poor health, following his recent visit to the hospital.
President Zuma spent two days in a hospital after the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party said it gave the leader a break following a “hectic campaigning” period before the May 7 general election.
Mac Maharaj insists Zuma is in good health and has been working hard and long hours at the office.
His comments followed a local newspaper report, which cited sources from the ANC suggesting Zuma is suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems. Maharaj rejected the newspaper report as rumor mongering.
“The doctors attending to the president are satisfied, there is no reason or cause to be concerned about his health,” said Maharaj. “He is fine he is back fully on duty, at the same time we would like to state clearly that we do not engage in gossip and rumors around his health.”
Some analysts have demanded assurances from the presidency arguing the president appeared to have lost weight after he was recently hospitalized.
But Maharaj disagreed, saying the administration has been forthright with South Africans about Zuma’s health conditions.
“When the president needed rest we said so publicly, the doctors confirmed it to us. Then the doctors carried out tests, made it a major examination, he was kept in hospital for 24 hours for thorough check up, and they discharged him satisfied with the results, and he is now back with his public engagements, as well as his office work.”
"Tiredness is something that affects everybody,” Maharaj said. “The president is working extraordinarily long and hard hours.”
But some opponents have demanded the presidency provide proof of Zuma’s good health, by making it public. Again, Maharaj dismissed the demand as without merit.
“Why do we have to prove rumors and gossips to be unfounded? If we were to spend our time engaging in rumors and gossip, we will spend all our lives just repudiating rumors, and then having to prove, whereas the gossip does not require to be proved,” Maharaj said.
Supporters of the ANC say the newspaper report is politically motivated to speculate that President Zuma is unlikely to serve his second full term in office due to poor health. But opponents contend the president’s reported poor health conditions should be of concern to all South Africans.
“I don’t want to engage with the gossip and rumor mongering around the president’s health. I do not want to give them credibility,” said Maharaj.
Clottey interview with Mac Maharaj, President Zuma's spokesman