Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has been given time off to recover from a gruelling election programme, the African National Congress said on Friday.

“The president is exhausted. The election was punishing,” secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters at the ruling party's lekgotla in Irene, outside Pretoria.

He said Zuma was given time to recover before he held a Cabinet lekgotla next week.

“He is given time to relax. He is having a Cabinet lekgotla next week, we want him to be relaxed and focused.”

Mantashe said that following an election victory, the ANC was expecting ministers to be available to address residents' concerns.

“We want ministers to be on the go and attend to issues. They must be there... to address concerns.”

He said the ANC secured victory in the election against difficult odds.

“We won against odds. We moved against the storm. The decline of 3.7 percent is huge. The lekgotla will look into how there was a decline.”

Mantashe said the ANC was the preferred party in rural areas and also won the majority of votes in areas where there were protests going into the election.

“Opposition parties are targeting centres of key economic activities,” he said.

Sapa