JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- South Africa's polygamist president has apologized to the nation after being criticized for having an extramarital affair that resulted in a daughter born in October.
Analysts had argued that the love child revelations would have little impact because South African voters overwhelmingly supported Jacob Zuma in last year's election even though he was an unabashed polygamist who had admitted to having sex outside marriage. But Zuma has had to make two public statements on the matter, a sign he and his advisers may be worried that South Africans will hold him to higher standards now that he is president.
"The matter, though private, has been a subject of much public discussion and debate," Zuma said in the latest statement, issued Saturday. "It has put a lot of pressure on my family and my organization, the African National Congress. I also acknowledge and understand the reaction of many South Africans."
He added: "I deeply regret the pain that I have caused to my family, the ANC, ... and South Africans in general."
Three days earlier, Zuma confirmed a South African newspaper's report of the affair. In that earlier statement, he expressed no regrets and criticized the media and rivals for making a political issue out of what he insisted was a private matter.
Helen Zille, head of the main opposition Democratic Alliance, had said Zuma should resign if he was unwilling to accept public scrutiny and criticism. In response to his expression of regret, Zille said Saturday her party "welcomes President Zuma's apology to the South African public.
"But words are not enough, he must now focus on repairing the damage he has done to the fight against HIV/AIDS," she said.
Zille and others have said Zuma is a poor role model in a country of 50 million with an estimated 5.7 million infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, more than any other country. Experts say having multiple partners increases the risk of contracting HIV, and Zuma's government has stressed the importance of safe sex, including using condoms, to stop the spread of the virus.
The ANC said in response to Zuma's latest statement that it hopes opposition parties and others would now "put this matter to rest and give all families concerned the opportunity to reflect on the matter."
Zuma was acquitted of rape in 2006 after he testified that the unprotected sex he had with the HIV-positive daughter of a family friend was consensual. He went on to win leadership of the ANC and became president last year after his party swept elections.
He was accompanied to his inauguration last year by his three wives - such marriages are legal in South Africa in an acknowledgment of Zulu and some other tribal traditions. He is engaged to a fourth woman, who is not the same woman with whom he fathered a daughter born in October.