Speculation over Zuma’s health still rife

2014-06-19 00:00

DEPUTY President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC and its allies may insist that President Jacob Zuma is in good health, but others were not convinced by his appearance during his presentation of the State of the Nation Address on Tuesday evening.

Though Zuma laughed a few times, he was not his usual self, prompting many to speculate about his health.

The address was Zuma’s first public appearance two weeks after he underwent medical tests and then took a rest following a gruelling election campaign. Aged 72, he promised to personally head negotiations between role players to ensure the sustainability of the mining sector.

While Ramaphosa said yesterday that the president was still looking good, some commentators said there was every reason for citizens to be concerned about Zuma’s health.

However, KZN ANC secretary Sihle Zikalala said Zuma’s age and health were not a cause for concern as some presidents were well over 70.

Zikalala insisted that people should take the word of ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe that Zuma had to take a rest after the intense election campaign.

“He is back and presented the State of the Nation as expected. There is no reason for anyone to be worried,” he added.

IFP secretary-general Sibongile Nkomo echoed Zikalala’s sentiments.

“He gave us the speech. That is what we expected from the president. [Discussions about] his health should not be entertained. That is not right,” she said, adding that the health status of the president should be kept confidential. Nkomo said it was healthy to take a rest after the election campaign.

“All of us have been on campaigns and we took some days off just to chill and take it easy,” she said.

SACP provincial secretary Themba Mthembu said: “There is no reason to panic. There is nothing to suspect otherwise because election campaigns can affect the physique.”

KZN EFF convenor Vusi Khoza said the country’s economy needs rapid transformation, which Zuma could not deliver. “The transfer of wealth requires energetic and young people. He can’t cope. He is supposed to resting at Nkandla and allowing the young people to run with the baton,” he said.

Political analyst Mcebisi Ndletyana said Zuma’s appearance and tone on Tuesday suggested he was unwell. “If the president is unwell, that is a concern to the citizens because he can’t do his job properly.”

Ndletyana said there were implications to a president who could not perform his duties, including finding his replacement if he was incapacitated.

“It opens up issues of succession; that is why we have seen some excitement,” he added.

Political analyst Max du Preez said Zuma could possibly be recovering from a bout of flu and that he was not young any more.

“We don’t know what he is suffering from. Maybe he will be the usual self we have known in a week or two.”

He, however, agreed with Ndletyana that citizens should be concerned when a president is unwell.

Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj could not be reached for comment.

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