South African politician Jacob Zuma – later the President of South Africa – was charged with rape on 6 December 2005. He was prosecuted in the Johannesburg High Court between March and May 2006. On 8 May, the Court dismissed the charges, agreeing with Zuma that the sex act in question had been consensual. During the trial, Zuma admitted to having unprotected sex with his accuser, whom he knew to be HIV-positive, but memorably claimed that he took a shower afterwards to reduce his risk of contracting HIV.

Background Edit

To protect the identity of Zuma's accuser, Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo,[1] she was known to the public by the pseudonym Khwezi.[2] Her father, Judson Kuzwayo, was, like Zuma, a member of the African National Congress (ANC) during the struggle against apartheid, and had spent a decade imprisoned alongside Zuma on Robben Island before his death in 1985.[3] Zuma was accused of raping her at his home in Forest Town, Johannesburg on 2 November 2005.[4] By then, Khwezi was a 31-year-old HIV/AIDS activist.

On the morning of 6 December 2005, Zuma was formally charged with rape, although the media had already reported on the allegations. He strongly denied the accusation.[5] At that time, Zuma was ANC Deputy President and was engaged in a fierce political battle against President Thabo Mbeki, who had fired him as national deputy president in June that year. A criminal conviction would be a serious obstacle to his political ambitions – observers believed he intended to stand for the ANC presidency at the party's 52nd National Conference in 2007and then for the national presidency in the 2009 presidential elections.[5]

Trial Edit

The trial began on 6 March 2006 in the Johannesburg High Court.[4] Judge Bernard Ngoepe, initially assigned to the case, recused himself due to his involvement in the ongoing (but separate) corruption charges against Zuma;[4] Judge Willem van der Merwe presided instead. Zuma pleaded not guilty to the charge, claiming that he and Khwezi had had consensual sex.[4]

In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, a person who has laid a rape charge may not be questioned on their sexual history, unless special permission is granted by a judge. In this case, such permission was granted, and Khwezi was subjected to what the Guardian called "aggressive cross-examination".[6][7][8] Zuma's defence argued that Khwezi had a history of making false rape allegations, and questioned her in detail about her childhood sexual experiences: she said that she had been raped thrice as a child in Lusaka, Zambia, where the ANC-in-exile had been based.[4] The defence also maintained that the sex had been consensual. Testifying in Zulu, Zuma confirmed that he viewed Khwezi as "a comrade's child", and suggested that she had sent him sexual signals including by her mode of dress (she had worn a kanga, and no underwear, on the night in question).[4][2] The prosecution, on several occasions, produced expert psychologist witnesses to dispute this narrative, and to argue that Khwezi's lack of physical resistance during the act had been the result of trauma.[4]

A crowd of supporters and the curious outside the Johannesburg High Court.

Another controversial element of Zuma's testimony was his admission that he had not worn a condom while having sex with Khwezi, despite knowing that she was HIV-positive and despite having been, as deputy president, the head of the National AIDS Council and Moral Regeneration Campaign. He told the court that he had taken a shower after the act, incorrectly claiming that doing so reduced the risk of HIV transmission.[9] The popular South African comic strip Madam & Eve and well known political cartoonist Zapiro repeatedly lampooned Zuma for his testimony, and Zuma now always appears under a showerhead in Zapiro cartoons.[10]

Political response Edit

Although there were reports that Zuma's legal difficulties were causing strife within the ANC-led Tripartite Alliance,[11] he retained a large public support base. The ANC Women's League defended Zuma.[12] During the trial, his supporters – sometimes in their thousands – gathered outside the courthouse, sometimes clashing with smaller groups of anti-rape protesters.[13][14][6] They were addressed among others by Fikile Mbalula of the ANC Youth League and Buti Manamela of the South African Communist Party Youth League,[15] and Zuma was fond of joining the crowd outside to sing "Umshini wami" with them.[15] Zuma supporters were seen carrying posters questioning Khwezi's integrity (with such slogans as "How much did they pay you, nondindwa [bitch]?" and "Burn this bitch"), burning photos of her, and on one occasion throwing stones at a woman that they mistook for her.[4][16]

Outcome Edit

On 8 May 2006, the court acquitted Zuma of rape,[17] although Judge van der Merwe censured Zuma for having had unprotected sex with Khwezi. Part of the judgement read:

It is totally unacceptable that a man should have unprotected sex with any person other than his regular partner and definitely not with a person who to his knowledge is HIV positive. I do not even want to comment on the effect of a shower after having had unprotected sex... [However] it is clear that the probabilities show that the complainant's evidence cannot be accepted. She is a strong person well in control of herself knowing what she wants. She is definitely not that meek, mild and submissive person she was made out to be. On the evidence as a whole it is clear that the accused's version should be believed and accepted. The accused's evidence was also clear and convincing in spite of media efforts to discredit him.[18]

Aftermath Edit

On 3 July 2007, Khwezi was granted asylum in the Netherlands,[19] having faced intimidation in South Africa during and after the trial.[20] She died in 2016.[1]

In 2014, the ANC's Umkhonto we Sizwe Veterans' Association (MKMVA) and its chairman, Kebby Maphatsoe, claimed publicly that Khwezi had reported the alleged rape at the instigation of former cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils. Kasrils sued for defamation and, in a settlement, the parties – MKMVA and Maphatsoe – agreed jointly to pay Kasrils R500,000 in damages and to publicly retract the statement.[21]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ a b Grant-Marshall, Sue (3 October 2017). "Khwezi book reveals how rape accuser was violated by the law". Business Day. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  2. ^ a b Pather, Raeesa (10 August 2016). "The kanga, womanhood and how Zuma's 2006 rape trial changed the meaning of the fabric". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  3. ^ Thamm, Marianne (10 October 2016). "'Khwezi', the woman who accused Jacob Zuma of rape, dies". the Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Timeline of the Jacob Zuma rape trial". Mail & Guardian. 21 March 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  5. ^ a b "S Africa's Zuma charged with rape". Al Jazeera. 6 December 2005. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  6. ^ a b "Jacob Zuma cleared of rape". the Guardian. 8 May 2006. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  7. ^ "Zuma's rape accuser questioned". BBC News. 6 March 2007. Archived from the original on 11 January 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
  8. ^ "S. African denies rape allegation at trial". Boston Globe. 3 April 2006. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
  9. ^ "SA's Zuma showered to avoid HIV". BBC News. 5 April 2006. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
  10. ^ Grootes, Stephen (22 July 2011). "SA's most famous showerhead sparks more debate". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  11. ^ Tabane, Rapule (21 April 2006). "SACP divided on Zuma". Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on 5 February 2015. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  12. ^ Horn, Jessica (3 November 2016). "Khwezi showed how to challenge rape culture – the rest is up to us". the Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  13. ^ Humphreys, Joe (9 May 2006). "Dramatic scenes as Zuma is cleared of rape". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  14. ^ "Zuma rape case judge stands down". BBC News. 13 February 2006. Archived from the original on 12 January 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
  15. ^ a b Musgrave, Amy (13 February 2006). "Zuma judge recuses himself from trial". Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 March 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
  16. ^ "Accuser insulted as Zuma hailed at court". Independent Online. 14 February 2006. Archived from the original on 25 February 2006. Retrieved 20 December 2007.
  17. ^ Humphreys, Joe (9 May 2006). "Dramatic scenes as Zuma is cleared of rape". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  18. ^ "The State Versus Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma" (PDF). High Court of South Africa (Witwatersrand Local Division). 8 May 2006. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 September 2015.
  19. ^ "Asiel voor aanklaagster Zuma" [Asylum for Zuma prosecutrix]. NOS (in Dutch). 3 July 2007. Archived from the original on 12 September 2007.
  20. ^ Thamm, Marianne (9 October 2016). "#RememberKhwezi: Zuma's rape accuser dies, never having known freedom". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 29 September 2022.
  21. ^ Venter, Zelda (23 August 2016). "Kasrils and Kebby settle defamation case". Independent Online. Retrieved 29 September 2022.

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