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Mandela makes rare campaign appearance

Nelson Mandela emerged from retirement today to make a rare, surprise campaign appearance at an African National Congress rally for presidential candidate Jacob Zuma.

world Updated: Feb 16, 2009 14:45 IST

Nelson Mandela emerged from retirement today to make a rare, surprise campaign appearance at an African National Congress rally for presidential candidate Jacob Zuma.

Mandela, the ninety-year-old former South African president and anti-apartheid icon, has repeatedly insisted he is no longer actively involved in politics. But he campaigned in the rain alongside Zuma, the ANC leader, in rural southeastern South Africa where Mandela grew up.

"Nobody was aware that Nelson Mandela was going to be present" at the rally after he met with Zuma at his home in the region, said ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu.

Mandela, according to an ANC statement, waved to the crowd and spoke briefly.

"Despite the rain, you have all come here in numbers to show your commitment to the ANC," he was quoted as saying.

"Long live the ANC!"

The Eastern Cape region where Sunday's rally was held is seen as a stronghold for a new party that broke away from the ANC last year. The new Congress of the People party has questioned the leadership of Zuma, who has been accused of corruption and could end up on trial after the country's April 22 national election.

Mandela has refused to comment on divisions within his party, which has led to some to think he sides with the anti-Zuma camp.