Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Zuma guilty of something

The controversial rape trial of Jacob Zuma ended yesterday with his acquittal. Despite the verdict, the reputation of South Africa's former deputy president has been disastrously tarnished.

Zuma, still a wildly popular figure within the ruling African National Congress, was accused of raping a young woman; Zuma said the sex was consensual. Zuma knew the woman to be HIV positive yet he did not use a condom during the allegedly consensual sex. He also said he took a shower after the sex because he thought it would minimize the likelihood of him getting HIV himself. Zuma was widely ridiculed for the latter and scorned for the former. He was once chairman of South Africa's AIDS/HIV council. Then again, given his former boss' incomprehensible stances on HIV/AIDS (South Africa has the most HIV positive people in the world), perhaps Zuma's incoherent acts aren't surprising.

The young woman was a friend of the family who said she viewed Zuma like an uncle. Even if the sex was consensual, totally aside from her HIV status and ignoring the fact that he's married, was it in any way appropriate for Zuma to have sex with a woman half his age and who viewed him with paternal reverence? Is he a pervert, a predator, a bully or all three?

What seriously hurt the woman's credibility at the trial, and probably led to Zuma's acquittal, was the fact that she'd previously made false rape claims against other people. Yet if the woman viewed Zuma with such respect, as everyone agreed, then why would she fabricate rape claims against someone she had such high regard for? I don't know if what happened was actually rape, but why would she tear down her father figure if it were only consensual sex?

Tragically, the young woman has been forced into exile because of the way she's been demonized in some parts of the press and by the populist Zuma's fanatical political supporters. South Africa is believed a crisis of unreported rape. The way Zuma's accuser was smeared even before the trial started is only going to make the crisis of rape and silence worse.

If Zuma is not guilty of a crime, he is certainly guilty of violating the confidence of a young woman who trusted him and doing so in the most sickening and irresponsible of ways.


At 11:49 AM, Blogger MOLEBATSI said...

It is unfortunate that we have to offer an opinion on an issue we totally ignorant on such as the Jacob Zuma saga which entails two trials and spans a period of over five years.
I wont to go the details on this matter as it wont do any justice.I instead will point out that Zuma`s image remains intact in the light of his acqutal.He has also apologised for what happened between her and the complainant and for some of his unfortunate statements during the trial.
I plead that you gather more facts surrounding this matter so that the opinion you express is a bit more informed.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Fontaine said...

No, Molebasti, Zuma might be able to bounce back, but his image isn't intact. Not even close. If his image wasn't hurting, then why would he apologize? Remember, he had a lot more supporters when it was just corruption charges he was facing (of which, by the way, he might still be convicted). When he's charged with rape, quite a few -- but not all -- of his supporters faded away.

Was his public image destroyed beyond repair? No. Was it hurt badly? Oh yeah.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Mole: I am more than happy to be corrected if I am in factual error. However, you have offered nothing which makes me suspect that I am. I invite you to provide more specifics if you feel that I am ill-informed. The facts you pointed out were things I was well aware of (and I believe they occurred after I published this essay). They don't affect my overall opinion of Zuma's recklessness.


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