President Zuma's health in question

By Drum Digital
22 June 2014

President Jacob Zuma is said to be battling diabetes, a heart condition and blood pressure problems.

"There's no indication to us that we should worry about the health of the president. The president is well but I think he needs a rest," ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa says.

Concerns about the state of the president's health last year led some members of his family to suggest that he may decide to step down two years into his second term in office.

President Zuma first appeared following a 10-day break from his presidential duties when he delivered the state of the nation address in parliament on Tuesday. He appeared to have lost weight.

Social media was filled with commentary on the president's appearance but ANC MPs and staffers said president Zuma looked "much better" than he had before going on leave.

While presidential spokesperson Mac Maharaj said president Zuma was in good health and that it was only exhaustion from the punishing election campaign schedule that pushed him to take a break, a number of current and former associates of the president said his health has been a concern for some time.

"He does have a heart problem. That is why he had to see a cardiologist at that Durban hospital earlier this year. I have been aware of his heart condition since some three years ago," a one-time Zuma political associate told

The former political associate confirmed that the president was diabetic, a claim that has been backed by several party insiders.

The ANC MP said: "This is why the president is careful about what he eats and never skips lunch, because you can't take medication on an empty stomach."

Zuma' s fourth wife, Bongi Ngema-Zuma - a diabetes awareness activist - insisted her husband "was still fine", saying doctors screened him for the disease during his one-day stay in a Pretoria hospital two weeks ago.

"He does screen for it. Remember, he does regular [checks]. Like just now, when the papers said [he was admitted to hospital], it was for comprehensive tests and screening," said Ngema-Zuma.

On the other hand, Zizi Kodwa said it "was never a secret to the ANC" that president Zuma was diabetic and insisted that the president was in good health for his age.

"That is not a secret ... the president being diabetic. He's never treated that as a secret. He's always had that [for] many years.

"The question has always been how does he keep himself young and healthy in spite of that? He's always emphasised a healthy lifestyle and diet so the issue of diabetes is not new."

In the midst of all the speculation, Mac Maharaj has said the public's concerns about president Zuma's health were understandable but not necessary as he is "doing fine".

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