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.