Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Will a Rapist become President of South Africa?

I was thankful when South Africans, after years of apartheid, earned the right to elect their president. And their first choice, Nelson Mandela, proved to be the right choice-- his idea for a 'truth and reconciliation commission' almost certainly averted waves of reprisal killings and other continuing violence to settle scores between families, tribes and individuals stemming from the country's decades long civil war.

Unfortunately, since Mandela left office, South Africans have elected a series of incompetents, buffoons and corrupt leaders to follow him. But none of them may leave as bad a taste as the man who wants to become South Africa's next President, Jacob Zuma. That's right, the same Jacob Zuma who was acquitted of rape yesterday on the basis that his victim, an HIV-positive family friend, was 'inappropriately dressed.'

Then to top it off, Zuma explained that he showered after having sex with the woman so he would not get AIDS, and downplayed having sex without a condom. Of course, AIDS has been running rampant in South Africa for several years, especially after the harm done by former President Thabo Mbeke who refused to even acknowlege the disease and even refused free AIDS drugs offered to his country by the west, as if denying the existence of AIDS would make it disappear. In fact, Zuma was the head of the AIDS commission under Mbeke, and obviously doesn't take it much more seriously.

Besides not taking AIDS seriously, South Africa and Zuma also have a problem taking something else seriously-- violence against women.

South Africa is battling one of the world's highest rates of rape due to deep-seated sexism and rampant violence, and the biggest HIV caseload, with some 5 million people infected.

In a ruling activists said reinforced dangerous stereotypes about AIDS and women, the judge said an "inappropriately dressed" complainant flirted with Zuma before agreeing to sleep with him, then later fabricated a rape story.

"This is huge setback for women's rights," said Dawn Cavanagh, advocacy coordinator for activist group Gender AIDS Forum. "The judge is feeding into stereotypes about women."

The plaintiff's sexual history was made the focal point of the case, as well as her dress-- rather than Zuma or what his actions were. Apalling? yes. Disgusting? yes. Likely to change anytime soon? probably not.

What is very frightening is the very real prospect that Jacob Zuma might become the next President of South Africa. He has a lot of support. And some of his supporters were making themselves heard at the trial:

They said Zuma had not done enough to quell sexism among his supporters, who during the trial burned pictures of the complainant outside the court and yelled "burn the bitch."

"Just look at this handsome man," said 38-year-old Eugenia Yantcho, brandishing a photograph of Zuma after the verdict on Monday. "How could you say he would rape anyone?"

Yeah, that's it. If he's handsome, he couldn't be a rapist? What kind of logic is that? Heck, Ted Bundy, a handsome guy who looked sharp in a suit while defending himself on TV, got a number of marriage proposals in prison while he was waiting to be executed after murdering an estimated 38 women. And just last year, there were women who wanted to marry Scott Peterson. I don't know which is worse-- that kind of twisted logic, or those few really sick women who follow it.

What is worse, his successor as Deputy President and very likely Presidential rival, is a woman. I will give the South Africans credit for one thing though. In America, when people are sexist, they usually hide it behind some sort of 'code.' In South Africa, they wear it like a badge:

Several of Zuma's deeply conservative supporters -- many wearing the traditional dress of his Zulu tribe -- held placards reading "No woman for president," a reference to Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka, the woman who replaced Zuma as deputy president.

"We don't want a woman president. God didn't create women for that," said 19-year-old Moscow Mashegoane. "We want Zuma."

Now, I don't know anything at all about Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka, but the fact that she is 1) a woman in a country where a strong female role model would do a world of good, and 2) is running against Zuma, makes me hope that she wins.


Eddie81 said...


What's wrong? I did not see you blaming any of this on the Bush administration. I thought every problem in the world was his fault!

Lily said...

Oh my! Eddie81 is still around too!

I agree Eli that this is an awful situation, unfortunately there is often very little that can be done. There's a line between imposing cultural "values" on others and working to eradicate human rights abuses. I think there needs to be a specific definition of human rights commitment and what that looks like... and then all nations should commit to it and perhaps we do not deal economically with those that will not commit? But that would create a whole other series of problems, with China for example. We are notorious for condemning with one hand and shaking hands with the other...I'm not sure what the snwer is beyond hoping for change and reform there.

Sickens me, that whole thing.

union guy said...


Having lived in South Africa for a while, I wanted to jump in and say a few things. Not all South Africans or black South Africans represent the paternalism of Zuma and his supporters. There are even a few tribal nations in South Africa that are traditionally matriarchal.

Zuma will have a hard time being elected not only because of the rape allegation (which many people in South Africa take very seriously) but because he is Zulu, which is a minority in the ANC. Neither Thabo Mbeki or Mandela are Zulu and there is still an anti-Zulu sentiment in the ANC (partly because of the Zulu's social conservatism).

Mandela will certainly not endorse him for the presidency now, and his word still carries a lot of weight.

Eli Blake said...


I haven't been afraid to give Bush credit for doing something right when he has done something right (see this post for example.

It's just that he rarely does anything right. Not never, but it is very rare.

And yes, there are problems in the world that Bush has nothing to do with. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't name the guilty parties, whoever they are.

Anonymous said...

What happened to due process?

You can not like the justice system there, but this man was acquitted. That means that they did not find that he is a rapist. So why are you calling him one?

The problem with our system today is that a woman can accuse a man of rape, and immediately he is guilty. Never mind that the woman who accused William Kennedy Smith was nuttier than a whole warehouse full of snickers bars, or that the Duke LaCrosse players were probably not even there when the woman there says she raped them. Thanks to the media, they are all guilty anyway.

William Kennedy's biggest asset is now being named, 'Smith' (his other name isn't one he could hide behind very well), and what happens to the Duke players if they are acquitted? A lifetime of applying for jobs, having background checks done (and this will show up, even if it is just that their name is googled on a search engine) and potential employers will 'play it safe' and always hire the other candidate.

If someone really is a rapist, I'd say castrate them and then lock them up for life. But the system we have now, 'trial by the media' in which you are guilty upon accusation, is just plain wrong. It's wrong in South Africa, and it's wrong in America.

Eli Blake said...

also, eddie:

You seem to think I only put up posts attacking George Bush. So I went back and looked at my May postings, and only the three I have put up on Mondays attacked George Bush.

As far as posts in general, during May I have put up those three attacking Bush, this one attacking Mr. Zuma, one attacking Zacharias Moussaoui (I suppose you will try to claim that is 'code' for hate Republicans or something?), and one attacking Senator Kyl (R-AZ).

I have also posted one post on infant mortality, two on the genocide in Darfur, one on bilingualism, and one on my new avatar. If you throw in the post I made a moment ago on the Venezuelan election, that means that only half of the posts I put up this month were attack posts directed at anybody!

So clearly, you have a distorted view of my blog.


I'm not saying that false rape reports never happen, but most of the time they are accurate. As to the Duke case, we will see what transpires-- keep in mind that most of the information you have heard comes from the accused's lawyers. And if they get acquitted, then somehow I doubt that the sons of millionaires with a degree from Duke will have any trouble at all finding employment. Maybe you would do better to ask the victim whether she is tired of being referred to as 'an exotic dancer' instead of a woman. Anyone who works in any legal profession, including exotic dancers, should have the right to do their job without having to worry about their personal safety.

Eli Blake said...

union guy:

I certainly hope you are right.

Eddie81 said...


I guess I stand corrected concerning the attacks. However, I do believe that most of your attacks on the administration are based completely on a partisan viewpoint. You don't (and maybe none of us do) have the ability to view the President objectively. Maybe it is pointless to even try, but I think that some people are able to be more objective than others.

Karen said...

"view the President objectively"...

...that's because he doesn't give us reason to do so!