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Guardian forced to apologise to Jacob Zuma

LONDON - The Guardian has apologised to Jacob Zuma, the South African presidential candidate and leader of the African National Congress party, for an article that suggested he was "a rapist and guilty of corruption and bribery".

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The paper yesterday printed an apology, which said that: "Since the article was published, all criminal charges against Mr Zuma have been dropped by the South African National Prosecuting Authority".

The paper claimed that the offending content in the piece, which was written by columnist Simon Jenkins under the headline "Get used to a corrupt and chaotic South Africa. But don't write it off", was included due to an "editing error" and apologised for "any distress or embarrassment caused".

The article, which appeared in The Guardian on March 6, described Zuma's leadership style as "morally contaminated", leading him to demand an apology and undisclosed damages from the paper.

The piece was subsequently removed from The Guardian's website.

Zuma's lawyers, Schillings, in a statement issued last week, said: "Mr Zuma believes that the published column contains grossly defamatory, false and indefensible allegations, the most serious of which is the false claim that he is a rapist."

It went on to quote Zuma, who said: "The media should report accurately and honestly.

"It is not fair that they should print lies, distort or exaggerate issues merely for the sake of sensationalism and increased revenue...

"The world needs a media that all people can rely on, even in the United Kingdom. In this matter I was obliged to act where I had been wronged."

Zuma's ANC party is widely expected to triumph in the country's fourth democratic general elections, making him the next president of South Africa.

The Guardian's full apology:

"We apologise to Jacob Zuma, the president of the African National Congress, for suggesting [in a piece headlined 'Get used to a corrupt and chaotic South Africa. But don't write it off', March 6, page 31] 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".

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