Ex-South African Deputy President Cleared of Rape Charge

By Delia Robertson


Voice of America, 08 May 2006


 Former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma, bottom right, sits in the dock as his supporters react after Zuma was found not guilty for rape in the Johannesburg High Court
Former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma has been found not guilty of raping a 31-year-old family friend.

Judge Willem van der Merwe said that the sexual encounter between Jacob Zuma and the woman who accused him of rape could have been consensual.

"In my judgment, the state has not proved the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "The accused is found not guilty."

Zuma supporters on the streets and inside the court erupted with jubilation. Zuma spoke briefly to the crowds, thanking them for their support and saying that he is not a cruel or violent man.

The judge explained that based on the psychological evidence presented in court, there are several reasons why the complainant may have made a false accusation.

"The complainant has experienced previous trauma, and it is quite possible that she perceives any sexual behavior as threatening. It is quite possible that after intercourse had taken place, there was the feeling of guilt, resentment, anger and emotional turmoil," he concluded.

The judge said he did not accept the complainant's testimony that she would never have unprotected sex, nor that, even though she testified she is a lesbian, that she had not had sexual encounters with other men in the past five years.

"From the aforegoing, it is clear that the probabilities show the complainant's evidence cannot be accepted," he said. "She is a strong person, well in control of herself, knowing what she wants. She is definitely not that mild and submissive person she was made out to be."

Judge van der Merwe also said that Zuma was clear and convincing in his testimony. But, he was severely critical of Zuma for having sex with his accuser. He said that Zuma should never have had sex with someone so much younger than him who is HIV-positive and who is the daughter of an old, deceased, friend.

"It is totally unacceptable that a man should have unprotected sex with a person other than his regular partner, and definitely not with a person who, to his knowledge, is HIV-positive," he commented. "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."

Overall the judge was dismissive of the case presented by the prosecution, being especially critical of the senior police officers who handled the investigation, saying they had attempted to entrap Zuma and had violated his constitutional rights. He offered frequent praise for the defense advocate and witnesses.