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South African Politician Zuma: 'I Am Back'

In the wake of his acquittal on charges of rape, former South African deputy president, Jacob Zuma, has gone on the offensive in an all-out political comeback initiative.

Less than 24-hours after his acquittal, Jacob Zuma launched a publicity blitz to reclaim his political foothold. Even before a formal meeting with the African National Congress leadership to discuss his future, he made it clear he intends to immediately resume duties as deputy president of the party.

"The case is over, and therefore, I am back," he said. "I took a decision, which was accepted by the ANC, [to step aside as party deputy] for the duration of the case, and the case is over. So, no question about it."

At a packed news conference Tuesday, Zuma delivered a carefully crafted statement, in which he responded to criticisms raised against both him and his supporters during the trial. He started by apologizing for having unprotected sex with the 31-year-old woman who accused him of rape.

"I wish to state categorically and place on record that I erred in having unprotected sex," said Mr. Zuma. "I should have known better, and I should have acted with greater caution and responsibility. For this I unconditionally apologize to all the people of this country."

There has also been severe criticism of his supporters' treatment of the complainant during the trial. Amongst other things, they burned her photograph and threatened to burn her. She remains in a witness protection program, and there is widespread speculation that she will go into exile. Zuma did not condemn the actions of his supporters, but said she should be able to live as any other citizen.

"Further I wish to stress that the complainant in my erstwhile case, should in no way be vilified or condemned," he explained. "She deserves to live a fruitful and harmonious life as a citizen of this country."

Zuma, who also faces trial on fraud and corruption charges later this year, continues to insist there is a campaign by what he calls faceless people to prevent him from becoming president of South Africa. He says that the media is part of this campaign. He says his political future depends on the ANC and its members, adding that he will not refuse any position.