Jacob Zuma, current Deputy President of the African National Congress, and Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa until June 2005, heaves a sigh of relief today as a case that divided the nation, and brought to bear the new realities of life in South Africa was decided in his favour.
He was charged with rape of an HIV-positive family friend at his house in Forest Town, Johannesburg. This came soon after the conviction of his financial advisor, Schabir Sheik for corruption and fraud, which led to his own dismissal as Deputy President. He acknowledged a consensual sexual relationship with the woman, a prominent AIDS activist and politically connected herself, but denied that rape had occurred.
His cavalier attitude about a consensual relationship with the daughter of a close family friend, followed by his admission that he had not used a condom, and believed that the shower he took after sex protected him from HIV transmission, drew shock, derision and outrage from South African society, AIDS activists, and satirists. His supporters rallied continuously outside the courthouse, getting violent and bringing out anti-rape and women’s groups as well.
The defence strategy of painting the woman as either deluded or a compulsive liar, and the lack of witnesses and divergent circumstantial evidence led to the ‘reasonable doubt’ verdict, and the judge finding that the sex was consensual. The judge did not let Mr Zuma off easily, noting,
“Had Rudyard Kipling known of this case at the time he wrote his poem, If, he might have added the following: ‘And, if you can control your body and your sexual urges, then you are a man, my son’.”
The nature of politics and sex is such, however, that the likelihood of Jac-Z returning to the political limelight is slim at best. He must now contend with his corruption trial, scheduled to begin in July.