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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 13:01 GMT
ANC stands by Zuma on rape claim
Jacob Zuma's supporters rally in his defence
Supporters claim Jacob Zuma's charges are politically motivated
South Africa's governing ANC party has refrained from acting against the party's deputy president, Jacob Zuma, who has been accused of rape.

Mr Zuma has also been charged with corruption and was sacked as the country's deputy president in June.

At a weekend meeting of ANC's national executive, Mr Zuma admitted he was facing allegations of rape, and asked to address the meeting on the subject.

This followed press reports that police were pursuing rape claims against him.

The matter is still under investigation, we should not engage with it, but [ANC] officials must keep a close eye on the matter
ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlante
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlante said Mr Zuma had again denied the allegations.

"The NEC [National Executive Committee] took the view that since the matter is still under investigation, we should not engage with it, but [ANC] officials must keep a close eye on the matter."

While Mr Zuma's supporters have continued to protest his innocence in the face of corruption charges, the rape allegations have increased the pressure on Mr Zuma himself and made it more difficult for his allies to continue their unequivocal support.

Mr Motlante added that the allegations are being "regarded very seriously by the ANC".

'No conspiracy'

The NEC weekend meeting, called in an attempt to resolve perceived differences between Mr Zuma's supporters and supporters of President Thabo Mbeki, continued for a day longer than scheduled, reportedly amid deep controversy.

South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma
Zuma was viewed as favourite to succeed Mbeki

The meeting's final statement, released on Monday, rejected allegations made by the Zuma camp over the past few months that the former deputy president was the victim of a conspiracy from within the ANC.

"The NEC rejects any suggestion that there is in existence a political conspiracy within our movement and its leadership, dedicated to marginalising or in any other way harming our deputy president," the statement said.

Mr Zuma's supporters have been alleging a conspiracy ever since the country's then deputy president came under investigation on charges of corruption relating to a multi-billion dollar arms deal - charges that he has consistently denied.

Mr Zuma has a large following among ANC members, and the case has caused the party its biggest internal crisis since it was elected to power in 1994.

His court appearances have been accompanied by rowdy demonstrations. On Monday, Mr Motlante said any future expressions of support must be conducted "with dignity".

The corruption charges stem from the trial of Mr Zuma's former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, who is appealing against a 15-year jail sentence for fraud and corruption.

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