Zuma Dispels Ill-Health Rumors at Party Rally in South Africa

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(Bloomberg) -- Former South African President Jacob Zuma made his first public appearance in a week as his party sought to dispel speculation that he’s ill.

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Zuma, who has spearheaded the election campaign of the opposition uMkhonto weSizwe Party since it launched in December, failed to attend a series of party events this month. South African media including News24 have reported that Zuma has had a series of falls that have raised concerns among his medical and security teams.

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The 82-year-old former leader danced and sang on a stage at a party rally at his homestead in Nkandla in rural KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday evening as scores of supporters chanted his name. Zuma had visible stitches above his left eye and while he didn’t address the reports about his health, his party derided them as attempts to undermine the party’s growth.

“The falsehoods about President Zuma’s health are a desperate attempt to disrupt our progress and weaken our resolve,” the MKP said in a statement.

Zuma led South Africa for nine scandal-marred years that included allegations of large-scale corruption and the looting of billions of dollars of government funds. He’s denied wrongdoing and hasn’t been indicted on the accusations.

His popularity, particularly in the second-most populous province of KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the key reasons the party is garnering support that threatens the ruling African National Congress’s ability to maintain the national majority it’s had since coming to power in 1994.

The MKP’s policies include the expansion of the social security net, the expropriation of land without compensation and the nationalization of all major banks – including the central bank – and mines.

Zuma told the crowd that the party aims to secure a two-thirds majority in parliament, a feat the ANC last held under his predecessor Thabo Mbeki – in order to change laws that hinder the wellbeing of black people who are the “rightful owners” of the country.

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