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Africa , Feminism, Gender Violence, HIV/AIDS

Zuma Acquitted: Part 2

Yesterday, Jacob Zuma was acquitted on rape charges and the compliant known as Khwezi is on her way to a life of exile. The response in the African blogosphere is varied and ranges from those who are outraged at the verdict believing Zuma to be guilty of rape. Then there are those who believe justice was served but question the morality of Zuma’s action in committing adultery (he claims that consensual sex took place) the stupidity and ignorance of his having unprotected sex with an HIV+ woman. Others choose not to comment on the verdict at all but rather on the possibility of Zuma returning to political office and even running from the Presidency.

The fact that the government felt the need to deploy riot police outside the court on the day of the verdict goes along way to explain the political implications of the case especially if the verdict had been guilty instead of not guilty. From the reports in the South African press, Zuma is already preparing the way for his return to the political arena. He is full of apologies, politically laden and carefully crafted statements which no doubt he hopes will gain him favour amongst those that accept the not guilty verdict but who are unhappy about what they see as his moral failures – see blog quotes below.

On Khwezi: “Dont vilify my accuser says Zuma“……. “She deserves to live a fruitful and harmonious life as a citizen of this country,” I am a forgiving person and do not hold grudges.
On having unprotected sex: “I should have been more cautious and more responsible. I erred on this issue and on this I apologise,” he told the SABC in an interview……..”Make no doubt about it, it’s a mistake.” I was a naughty boy and should have known better – I am sorry, it will not happen again.

On gender based violence: The ANC deputy president also said he remained “unwavering” in fighting against gender-based violence, in line with the principles of his party”. I don’t rape women, I don’t think their vaginas are their father’s kraal. On the contrary, I am at the forefront in the battle against gender-based violence.

Mindful that he still has the corruption trial to come his comments on the media were scathing: He lambasted the media for trying him in the court of the public opinion.….”Some editors convicted me, I was in prison, that was not right.”

To his supporters the political overtones of his statement were even less subtle as he appeals to the masses.

You have proven that you know it [the Constitution] better than the ‘educated’ people. The law of SA states that a person charged remains innocent until proven otherwise. That is the golden rule of our Constitution.”………..He said the media and political analysts broke that law and undermined his human rights. “They say they are here to enlighten us, the uneducated, but they switched the lights off and it turned dark.”……………..”Even today, I would fight and die for you. I say that without any hesitation because that is what I stood for when I joined the struggle. I will stand for it until the end.”

The ANC including the ANC women’s section have welcomed him back into the fold as the Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe said

“The deputy president, as you know, requested to be released from his obligations for the duration of the (rape) trial. Now that the trial is over – once he’s ready – he can revert to us again”.

In an interview with SABC all of the above statements come to make more sense from Zuma the politician

“The question of when I am going to resume (duties as deputy president of the African National Congress) … I took a decision (to suspend myself) for the duration of the case and the case is over. Therefore I am back”

As for Khwezi – she is washed away, lost in the political rhetoric and media frenzy. Her supporters are in need of police protection and she is being whisked away to exile in a foreign land. Commenting on the trial proceedings and the outcome, Carrie Shelver of POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse) felt the message of the verdict was that

“women make false rape claims, they can’t be trusted” and that “they can be subjected to rigorous cross- examination and the law won’t protect….

Reading through the reports on the trial and the comments by the defense and the Judge it is easy to conclude that the untrustworthiness of women was in fact very much central to the defense and the judges final decision. As a member of the Rape Crisis center writes

the judge was seeking to find reasons why the complainant would lie and reasons why the accused would tell the truth, as opposed to seeking reasons why the complainant and the accused would either lie or tell the truth.

The judges statement that Zuma would not have woken her up to rape her in case she cried out and was heard by the guards is completely unreal and shows a lack of understanding of the act of rape for both the rapist and the raped. It makes the assumption that the rapist is stupid and that any sensible person would not do such a thing which is complete nonsense.The judges statement shows that he has completely ignored the power element which is central to rape.

I spoke with an activist friend from Behind the Mask this morning and she told me of a TV programme only last week in which young men were bragging about raping lesbians. So how would these young men feel now? In what way does the conduct of the trial and the judges statement deter them from carrying out these acts of violence that they appear to feel are justified? On the contrary, it reinforces their belief that such behaviour would be condoned because, as I have said before the focus is never on rapist or his behaviour but on the woman. It is always her rape never his.

Comments from other blogs

Chump Style in “Zuma f%%ks over South Africa” writes that after South African women have fought so hard for women’s rights and highlighted gender violence and a multibillion rand AIDS awareness campaign

Along comes a “I have no formal education” DEPUTY PRESIDENT who makes himself one of the wealthiest men in SA…….. And REVERSES everything that these 2 campaigns have fought for, for so long.

………He gets acquitted of the charges, thereby sending a message out to all rape-inclined men, “hey guys it’s ok if you rape a woman, if she isn’t wearing 300 layers of clothing down to her toes… She is ASKING FOR IT!”.

Shailja Blog is outraged at the verdict and responds to the judges comment that the woman had a history of making false allegations as follows:

Yeah, that’s what women do. Particularly young, vulnerable, HIV+ women in South Africa, where a woman gets raped every 26 seconds, and the conviction rate for rapists is below 7%…….Perhaps she was bored. Or it was that time of the month – we all know how a woman’s hormones go haywire every 28 days. She didn’t have enough going on in her life. So she thought:

The Urban Trash Blog in Jacob Zuma (Part 2) agrees with the judges decision but will not be voting for Zuma as President should he run. His disgust lies with Zuma’s behaviour

* he cheated on his wife (or wives);
* his sexual immorality has expressed great disrespect towards his family and peers;
* he had consensual sex with a HIV-positive family friend;
* he had consensual sex with a HIV-positive family friend HALF his age;
* he is a self righteous, arrogant harlequin;
* he has funny eyes …and probably clammy hands, too …that smell like cabbage.

Gregoogle, Jacob Zuma is guilty, even if the High Court sais otherwise believes Zuma to be guilty not of rape but of

Guilty of moral misjudgement. Guilty of being an appalling role model for the people of this country. Guilty of providing information about HIV/AIDS making it seem like a powerless disease. Guilty of adultery….I think that because of these notions, many people are upset, as his conduct has been undeniably immoral, and as a public leader of a country should not get away with such actions. And what I do not understand are Zuma’s followers, who have the knowledge of this dishonourable conduct and still support him as a leader.

He does however believe that the trial and it’s outcome questions the “issue of rape and that of women’s rights in South Africa.”

It is the question that drives us mad asks “Was justice served in the Zuma trial?” He believes yes it was

A very wise judge told the court that he had his reasons for allowing the evidence and as we heard the history of accusations against multiple people surface, including clergymen, I began to have my doubts.

Nonetheless he has very negative feelings about Zuma the man and the politian:

But Mr Zuma, you have coloured my perception of you with your anachronistic beliefs and chauvanist attitude. You have shamed men as you have sung your war songs with phallic symbolism. You and your supporters are may be loud and visible, but you represent an ugly side of mankind.

Acoustic Motorbike has recently visited South Africa where she spoke to various people about the trial. She found that for many it was a “tribal” issue

Many seem quick to dismiss the complainant’s credibility and instead blame tribal jealousies that see Xhosas preventing Zulus such as Zuma from achieving leadership positions in South Africa. They cite the leadership of the ANC, and the challenges faced by SACP leaders who seek to gain a higher profile in the ANC.

Others did not think the complainant credible. She adds that in a culture where gender violence is not taken seriously it is hard ” not to trust that the slightest loophole won’t be exploited.”

The Fish Bowl
does not comment on the trial or it’s outcome but on what happens next with Zuma and the ANC. In The ANC’s Zuma dilemma

Secondly, there now exists a huge dilemma for the ANC. Zuma was sacked as deputy president after the announcement of the Shaik verdict. They have today invited him to ‘discuss’ his future with the ANC, but I will imagine that little will happen until the verdict of his graft trial. The ANC leadership is really struggling at the moment to know how far to distance themselves from Zuma. It’s like a game of poker; they can’t be seen to be aloof, as that adds credence to the ‘conspiracy’ note, and they can’t be seen as being too close, lest he is indeed found guilty of corruption.

Yebo Gogo does not comment on the verdict as such but asks what will it mean for South African politics and in particular ethnic divisions between Zula majority and Xhosa leadership in the ANC.

This case has torn South Africa apart and stoked what had been largely dormant sectarian tensions (Zuma is a Zulu and many of his rivals in the ruling African National Congress party are Xhosa; of course, the real tensions are between the right-wing and left-wing factions of the ANC)

He goes on to say that throughout Zuma played the Zulu card

Already some Zulus felt like Xhosas ran the African National Congrees (Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela were both Xhosas), and many said Zuma’s trial was trumped-up charges to force out a Zulu heir apparent. Zuma never endorsed these views, but he never disputed them. He likened his trial to the liberation struggle against the apartheid government. His supporters called him by a tribal elder’s name. He spoke to crowds only in Zulu. The problem? In the run-up to the all-race elections of ’94, there was tribal violence between Xhosas and Zulus — enough to almost tear the country apart. Since then, much of the tension has remained dormant. Zuma knew this wasn’t about Zulus and Xhosas, and shame on him for allowing others to believe that.

Outside of the African blogosphere, Global Clashes – asks “Can a man ever be guilty of rape in Africa?”

What is shocking are the implications of this case and what it says to all the women in South Africa, a country which has a problem, whether it was to admit or not, with sexual violence against women. This case says to every woman that when she knows a man wants her, she shouldn’t do anything to excite him and to make him lose his judgment by staying for example in his house as the accuser in this case did.

The question asked here is one that we as Africans, whatever our nationality, need to consider carefully because if true then this is one awful testimony to our judicial systems, our cultures and attitudes towards women, sexuality and violence, towards human rights. There is much to be learned from the Zuma trial not least of all that there needs to be some serious policies around education about violence against women; HIV; myths about women and men; how rape trials are conducted; how rape survivors are treated. If the lessons begin then there is hope.
An edited version of this post appears on Global Voices.



  2. Ore

    I was upset when I read about it, but not as shocked as I should have been. This is Africa we are talking about, where rape and sexual assaults are usually considered to be the woman’s fault (‘Oh, she must have wanted it’, ‘What was she wearing?’, ‘What was she doing alone with him in the first place?’ etc).

    This verdict will just make sexual assault victims more reluctant to come forward and for their assaulters to think that it’s really not a big deal and that they can get away with it.

  3. I completely agree with Ore! This issue also questions the topic of consent. But most of all, it reflects bad investigation and evidence research…

  4. Bongie

    Honestly as a young person,i feel like i’m caught in the midle somewhere between politics and sexual violence!!
    i’ve been observing this trial on a neutral basis trying not to be biased because thats all everyone has been doing,politicas versus womens credibility and values in this society..i’m very upset..South Africa can do better tha that!!

  5. Dear Bongie, former Deputy President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma ought to be told that, it was not acceptable to have sex with a girl that called him father. In the same manner, former American President Bill Clinton acknowledged that he had an inappropriate relationship with onetime intern Monica Lewinsky and deceived the American people about it. These are bad men in any language, colour or culture.

  6. Malquia

    Interesting: we all know the definition of rape but seemingly have a hard time convicting those guilty of the crime…why this crime in particular? Because a conviction undermines the perceived power of maleness in Africa…and so the cycle continues…

  7. Comment by post author


    Comments by African gender violence activists.

    Jacob Zuma’s verdict that sided with Zuma’s initial views of not being guilty caused a stir among many women and gender activists — that included people outside South Africa.

    Sokari Ekine, human rights activist from Spain, says this is degrading and torturing to ‘Khwezi’ (as the court preferred this pseudonym for safety reasons), and to the general women community who are likely to fall victims of rape. From the verdict Ekine learnt that there’s no justice in the court systems in this country, which is driven by power relations of individuals.

    This case according to Kasha Jacqueline — a Ugandaian human rights activist, allegorically discourages women not to report rape cases, and that people of high hierarchy shouldn’t be taken to court as they can easily make their ways out of it without convictions.

    Nestor Hazikimana from Burundi believes that so long Zuma stays in power, as the African National Congress (ANC) insists on reinstating him, he will continue raping women because it’s been proven that he’s a ‘formal’ or ‘innocent’ rapist in the face of the law.

    According to Stanley Mabena — a Zion Christian Church member, this case has been dragging to this obvious judgement. He continues; “I personally feel that the ruling was not fair. The ruling of not guilty sends a message to rapists out there that if Zuma can do it why cant I?”

    Reactions from the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW):

    I am confused about Zuma’s case. Somehow I think he is wrong and somehow I think he is right. Only God knows the truth. For ‘Kwezi’, I think she cannot distinguish between rape and consensual intercourse because of her past. So every man she sleeps with she thinks he raped her — Dikeledi Sibanda.

    The judgment is a bit disturbing. I see that by letting Zuma walk freely they are legalizing rape, meaning anyone can get away with it. This shows that rape cases in South Africa will never be taken seriously and it will now become a norm — Zodwa Nkwinika.

    At times I feel that she shouldn’t have reported the case because justice has not been done but instead her whole life has been destroyed. She has been psychologically tortured from the start and is now worse after this verdict. My prayers will always be with her — Phumla Masuku.

    Behind the Mask – South Africa

  8. hello

    Its a sort of irony that the law has been broken by the executive (the very branch of government charged with implementing, or executing, it).

    A crime that remains a shaming, secret, life-scarring experience for tens of thousands of victims each year, NEW RAPE LAWS must protect ALL and no should mean no.

    This alone could remove a major obstacle to raped women, and men, pressing rape charges.


  9. Mthunzi

    sokari’s article is biased and its conclusion is that anti-rape activists have a better understanding of the case than the South African judiciary. Needless to say, this can only be a product of a sick mind. I am a South African and, like all South Africans, had a mixed view on the case – on whether JZ is guilty or not. However, throughout the case we never doubted the independence of the judiciary and its ability to apply itself to the case. We continue to do so for any future cases of alleged rape.

    Khwezi’s history of claims of rape was real. There is no apparent reason why a lineup of clergymen testified in this behalf if for no reason other than to expose her sick acts or, perhaps, method of advancement in life. There is no doubt that these allegations are real and the victims, which include the theological student who expelled, are real.

    To say that Zuma must be found guilty because doing otherwise promotes both raping and less reporting of rape is illogical at best and sick at worst. The former implies that court cases must be approached in terms of their impact on society and not evidence and the practice of jurisprudence. This is illogical because, for a start determining what variables constitute “impact on society” is complex. Secondly, law as we know it vanishes and we are a left with a poor abstract alternative.

    Judge Desai was accused of rape. It later transpired that the claim was a fake. The judge continues to be of valuable use to society. Were it for these anti-rape NGO’s who demand that a man must be immediately burnt in their altar on the pronouncement of a woman’s accusations, this man and his family would be in dire difficulties now.

    Anti-rape and women empowerment NGO’s are a need in every country, and more so in South Africa where rape statistics are worrying. Let them contribute to redressing the safety and roles of women. However, these NGO’s, regardless how noble they view themselves or by society, are not and cannot be replacement for the law.

    If this is their ultimate aim, they are not just a nuisance to society but its ultimate destroyer.

  10. Comment by post author


    You have chosen to 1) focus on the raped rather than the rapist and 2) fallen into the trap that assumes women lie about being rape 3)that gender violence activists are man haters and believe every man to be a rapist or potential rapist 4)that women have to justify their sexual history but men do not 5)that the law is always without a doubt correct and that miscarriages of justice never take place 6)that the procedures and processes used in rape trials are beyond question and are fair to both parties – I could go on but I think the point is made