Jacob Zuma rape trial

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Jacob Zuma, the former President of South Africa and former president of the governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), was charged with rape in the Johannesburg High Court on 6 December 2005. On 8 May 2006, the Court dismissed the charges, agreeing that the sexual act in question was consensual. During the trial, Zuma admitted to having unprotected sex with his accuser, whom he knew to be HIV positive, but claimed that he took a shower afterwards to cut the risk of contracting HIV. This statement has been condemned by the judge, health experts, AIDS activists and the public in general.[citation needed]

Pre-trial events[edit]

In November 2005, an investigation began into charges that he had raped a 31-year-old family friend at his home in Forest Town, Johannesburg. Even before charges were filed, the news media reported that the alleged victim was a member of a prominent ANC family and also an AIDS activist; and that Zuma had acknowledged a consensual sexual relationship with the woman in question.

Zuma's accuser's name is Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, but she used the alias Khwezi in court to protect her identity.

On the morning of 6 December 2005, rape charges against Zuma were formally filed. Zuma vehemently denied the charges, and affirmed his political commitment to oppose sexual violence.

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

Even before charges were filed, as rumors about rape accusations surfaced later in November, Zuma's political prospects began to appear to take a turn for the worse. Most of Zuma's higher-level political supporters could not respond to these new charges the way they had the corruption charges. These allegations seemed at first to take the steam out of Zuma's supporters, but in a hearing prior to Zuma's rape trial, a group of thousands of Zuma supporters gathered near the courthouse, as a smaller gathering of anti-rape groups demonstrated on behalf of the alleged rape survivor.[1]


Jacob Zuma was tried in the Johannesburg High Court. As he did throughout the trial, Zuma sang "Awulethu Mshini Wami" (Bring my machine gun) with the crowd, and ANC Youth League and Communist Party Youth League spokesmen spoke in support of Zuma.[2] Zuma had not entirely lost his support base.

As Zuma's rape trial proceeded, reports surfaced that the South African Communist Party was severely divided over how to address the issue of Zuma and the SACP's relationship to him. Many members of the party's youth wing supported Zuma while others in the SACP were skeptical about the value of rallying behind a particular person as opposed to emphasizing principles of governance.[3][4][5]

Despite the defection of some former supporters, however Zuma stalwarts continued to rally outside the courthouse, arousing criticism by anti-rape groups for regular attacks on the integrity and moral standing of Zuma's accuser, insults yelled at a close friend of the accuser, and even stones thrown at a woman that members of the crowd mistook for the accuser.[6] In an unprecedented allowance by a South African judge, Zuma's defense team was allowed to introduce evidence relating to the woman's sexual past, and asserted that the sex that took place was consensual. The prosecution asserted that her lack of resistance was due to a state of shock that is common in instances of trauma, and that the relationship between the two was like that of a 'father-daughter' pair.[7][8]

The trial also generated political controversy when Zuma, who headed the National AIDS Council, admitted that he had not used a condom when having sex with the woman who now accused him of rape, despite knowing that she was HIV-positive. He stated in court that he took a shower to try to reduce his risk of infection, upsetting HIV educators who emphasized that this would do nothing to prevent HIV transmission.[9]


On 8 May 2006, the court found Zuma not guilty of the charge of rape.

On 3 July 2007, the woman who brought the rape charges against Zuma was granted asylum in The Netherlands.[10]

See also[edit]

  • Schabir Shaik trial
  • Sexual violence in South Africa
  • Khwezi (book)
  • Pumla Gqola, "How the 'Cult of Femininity' and Violent Masculinities Support Endemic Gender Based Violence in Contemporary South Africa". African Identities 5.1 (2007): 111-24.
  • Pumla Gqola, Rape: A South African Nightmare. Johannesburg: MF Books, 2015.
  • Helene Strauss, "Memory, masculinity and responsibility: searching for 'good men' in Mtutuzeli Nyoka's I Speak to the Silent.” English in Africa 36.1 (May 2009): 77-89.


  1. ^ "Africa | Zuma rape case judge stands down". BBC News. 13 February 2006. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  2. ^ Amy Musgrave (13 February 2006). "Zuma judge recuses himself from trial". Mail & Guardian. Archived from the original on 14 March 2006. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  3. ^ Mazibuko Jara (28 November 2005). "The trouble with JZ". Mail & Guardian Online. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2013 – via archive.org.
  4. ^ Vicki Robinson; Rapule Tabane (25 November 2005). "Young communists plan move against Mazibuko Jara". Mail & Guardian Online. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 11 June 2013 – via archive.org.
  5. ^ Vicki Robinson; Rapule Tabane (21 April 2006). "SACP divided on Zuma". mg.co.za.
  6. ^ "IOL: Accuser insulted as Zuma hailed at court". IOL. 14 February 2006. Archived from the original on 25 February 2006. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Zuma's rape accuser questioned". BBC News. 7 March 2006.
  8. ^ Alexandra Zavis (3 April 2006). "S. African denies rape allegation at trial". Boston.com. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007 – via archive.org.
  9. ^ "SA's Zuma 'showered to avoid HIV'". BBC News. 5 April 2006. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  10. ^ "Asiel voor aanklaagster Zuma" [Asylum for Zuma prosecutrix]. NOS (in Dutch). 3 July 2007. Archived from the original on 12 September 2007.

See also: Pamela Scully, "Media Constructions of Ethnicized Masculinity in South Africa" in Lisa Cuklanz and Sujarta Moorti, eds., Local Violence, Global Media New York: 2009, Peter Lang.

External links[edit]