By Carien du Plessis and Sapa

President Jacob Zuma's sex life is likely to come under the spotlight again today as the ANC's top brass meet in Cape Town, days before the State of the Nation speech on Thursday.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu confirmed the meeting would take place, but refused to divulge details of the agenda.

An ANC national executive committee member said, however, that the party's top leadership was likely to demand answers after Zuma acknowledged fathering the infant of soccer boss Irvin Khoza's daughter Sonono.

After initial attempts to defuse the row by insisting this was a private matter between the president and the child's mother, the ANC and the Presidency did a U-turn and Zuma issued a formal apology to the nation on Saturday.

Zuma said he was sorry for "the pain that I have caused my family, the ANC, the (tripartite) alliance and South Africans in general".

The apology came after a public outcry in which South Africans from all walks of life were largely united in condemnation and opposition party leaders called on Zuma to resign and to seek therapy for "sex addiction". It is understood senior members of the ANC's national executive made it clear that an apology was in order.

Zuma's spokesman in the ANC, Zizi Kodwa, refused yesterday to discuss the matter, insisting that "the chapter about the baby is closed".

Kodwa, who is not employed by the government, initially featured on a Presidency press release as Zuma's spokesman on the matter along with media liaison officer, Nomfundo Mcetywa.

But by the end of the week journalists were being referred to the media liaison head in the Presidency, Zingaphi Jakuja, who referred queries yesterday to the Presidency's communications head, Vusi Mona. Mona's cellphone was switched off.

Zuma's apology did not address the criticism that by having unprotected sex outside marriage he was disregarding the ABC of his government's message on HIV/Aids - Abstain, Be Faithful and Condomise. It emerged during his 2006 trial on a rape charge - on which he was acquitted - that he'd had unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman.

Cosatu, which held off commenting until Zuma had issued a statement, said it "unconditionally" welcomed the president's apology.

"It is good that the president realises that he erred and did not seek to take our people for granted," spokesman Patrick Craven said.

The SACP, which was also silent on the matter last week, said in a terse statement that it "accepted" Zuma's apology.

Party spokesperson Malesela Maleka refused to say why the SACP did not issue a statement on the controversy last week and whether its leaders were divided over the question of Zuma's sexual conduct.

The ANC also welcomed Zuma's apology, as did DA leader Helen Zille.

Zille said yesterday she had been initially reluctant to issue a statement on the president's love-child as she had been criticised by the ANC last year for saying Zuma was putting his wives' health at risk by having unprotected sex outside marriage.

"Even some of my colleagues said I should not go there, but we all jumped on (former president) Thabo Mbeki for his denialism, and I felt we couldn't keep quiet about this," she said.

"(Zuma) undermines the government's Aids campaign by what he does."

Patricia de Lille, leader of the ID, said that for Zuma "the honeymoon is over".

"He needs to provide decisive leadership that can lay the basis for 10 or 20 years to come.

"For our country to succeed, we need the undivided attention of the president, who should do his job and be less preoccupied with his own pleasure," De Lille said.

Meanwhile, Zuma said yesterday it was the intensity of the armed struggle, and not a decision by former president FW de Klerk, that led to Nelson Mandela's release 20 years ago.

Zuma, apparently rejuvenated by a break from his schedule in the wake of publicity over the birth of his 20th child, was addressing an ANC Boland region meeting in Paarl.

He said that among the things he would be likely so talk about on the 11th, the anniversary of the release and the date of his State of the Nation address, was what it took for Mandela to "come out of prison".

"Don't be misled by people who might say today, we slept, we thought we must now release this man. No. it was the struggle, the intensity and depth of the struggle, that led to Madiba being released."

Today, in time of peace, everyone is making claims about the release, even those who were on the opposite side of the liberation struggle.

"No, no. These are all our people. We led them. Because the ANC succeeded, they also succeeded."

"It looked like a dream that this man who had been in prison for 27 years was being released," Zuma said.

"So we must remember him and thank him that he has stayed with us up to now."