Jacob Zuma accepts libel damages from Guardian

South African president Jacob Zuma today accepted “very substantial” libel damages and an apology at the High Court from the Guardian over claims he was a rapist.

Zuma sued after publication of an article headlined ‘Get used to a corrupt and chaotic South Africa’ by Simon Jenkins which appeared on 6 March.

His solicitor, Jenny Afia, told Mr Justice Eady at the High Court the piece alleged the president was guilty of rape, corruption and bribery arising from his involvement in an arms deal.

She told the court: “Such allegations are of the utmost seriousness and totally untrue.”

In April, after libel proceedings had been issued, the newspaper published an apology in its corrections and clarifications column.

The correction said: ‘We apologise to Jacob Zuma, the president of the African National Congress, for suggesting that he was guilty of rape.

‘This was included due to an editing error. In fact, Mr Zuma was acquitted of a rape charge in 2006. We also alleged that he was guilty of corruption and bribery.

‘We would like to clarify that since the article was published all criminal charges against Mr Zuma have been dropped by the South African National Prosecuting Authority on the basis that the timing of the decision to prosecute him in the first place was politically motivated. We apologise for any distress or embarrassment caused.”

Afia said the correction was published with far less prominence than the original article and was initially unavailable online. Therefore Zuma did not consider that this adequately dealt with his complaint and pursued his legal action.

Afia added that Zuma now considered his reputation had been entirely vindicated as Guardian News and Media had made an offer of amends, including the payment of very substantial damages and his legal costs.

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