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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 13:50 GMT
Jacob Zuma's ANC duties suspended
File photograph of Jacob Zuma
Zuma is under increasing pressure
South Africa's governing ANC party has confirmed that deputy leader Jacob Zuma may not carry out offical leadership duties while he faces a rape charge.

Mr Zuma was sacked as deputy president of the country in June and charged with corruption. He denies both charges.

Mr Zuma said on Tuesday he would suspend his participation in party structures during the rape trial.

The ANC said it accepted his suspension "forthwith". Mr Zuma was released on bail after a court hearing on Tuesday.

The party's decision leaves Mr Zuma politically isolated, unable to rally the support of his remaining sympathisers within the ANC, say correspondents.

Sensitivity

In a statement read out by secretary general Kgalema Motlante, the ANC national working committee said the law must be allowed to take its course, and that the party respected the principle of the presumption of innocence.

"The extended NWC noted the announcement by the deputy president of his decision, given the nature and the seriousness of the allegations, to voluntarily suspend his participation in the leading structures of the ANC for the duration of this trial. The meeting accepted this decision," the statement said.

Although Mr Zuma will retain the title of ANC deputy president, the ANC emphasised that he will not be allowed to speak on party platforms or carry out any other duties in the name of the ANC without express permission.

"Following consultation with Comrade Zuma, the National Working Committee understands this decision to mean that he would not act nor pronounce in the capacity of deputy president of the ANC for the duration of this trial," the statement said.

The sensitive nature of the rape charge made the decision a difficult one for the ANC, and the announcement of a decision was delayed several times.

Debate

Mr Motlante said the charge had raised "issues relating to the focus of the 16 days of activism" - an annual initiative against gender violence, supported by the government and the ANC - and had generated "lots of debate".

Mr Zuma was previously seen as the natural successor to President Thabo Mbeki.

While Mr Zuma's many supporters within the ANC and its allies stood by him as he was charged with corruption, his support has ebbed since the rape allegations first emerged in the press last month.

The corruption and rape charges have caused the party its biggest internal crisis since it was elected to power in 1994.

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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