JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Nelson Mandela emerged from retirement Sunday to make a rare, surprise campaign appearance at an African National Congress rally for presidential candidate Jacob Zuma.
Mandela, the 90-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.
"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 declined to comment on divisions within his party, which has led some to think he sides with the anti-Zuma camp. That speculation only increased when Mandela did not show up at the ANC's main rally releasing its platform last month. Mandela instead sent a message of support read by his daughter.
Mandela has insisted his absence from the campaign trail is due only to his retirement. Sunday's appearance could be an attempt to put rumors to rest during a tough time for the party.
Weekend headlines in South Africa focused on a new scandal involving a prominent, high-living ANC spokesman, Carl Niehaus, accused of using political connections to obtain loans and jobs.