TAC statement on verdict in Jacob Zuma trial

TAC accepts verdict, concerned at judge’s reinforcing of patriarchal prejudices in framing his judgement

May 08, 2006

Jacob Zuma
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) accepts Judge Van Der Merwe’s statement that the state did not succeed in establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt in the case of alleged rape of his family friend and daughter of a comrade. The Judge criticized the police for their shoddy investigation. It is tragic that this is true in thousands of cases of rape in our country. A lack of empathy with victims of violence, police sexism and a lack of resources hamper police investigations in most cases.

Judge Van Der Merwe could have made a finding of not-guilty for Zuma without dehumanizing the complainant and resorting to patriarchal prejudices and stereotypes of women who allege rape as pathological. For those in our country who already hold these attitudes towards women, such utterances by a judge can only serve to legitimize their unjust beliefs. These utterances can also serve to confirm the belief by many women who have survived rape that our country’s justice system is biased towards men and treats women as unequal citizens.

Former Deputy President Zuma and all accused have a right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The court process has found him innocent. We understand the pain his family, comrades and the former Deputy-President faced. But we also work with countless women who struggle to get a complaint heard.

Regrettably, the former Deputy President has failed to condemn violence and vilification of women carried out in the name of his defense by the Friends of Jacob Zuma. This is an assault on the dignity of every woman and rape survivor. It also undermines the integrity of men who do not support violence against women.

Despite his patriarchal positions on women and sex, Judge Van Der Merwe pointed out that former Deputy-President acted irresponsibly towards himself, his family, the woman he had sex with in the context of tragically high rates of HIV infection in our country.

The Former Deputy President’s position on gender reflects the sexism which continues to plague our society and drives our HIV epidemic. Such views are not acceptable in any man, much less a leader who fought for freedom and equality.

It is indeed tragic that someone who led SANAC and the country’s “moral regeneration” campaign has made the kinds of utterances he has on HIV. One of the biggest challenges facing HIV prevention efforts in our country is people’s ability to internalize their personal risk to infection and act accordingly. It is therefore sad to note through this trial, that Mr. Zuma did not perceive himself at risk of infection.

TAC calls on all women, civil society, the unions and government to unify under the banner of the One in Nine Campaign, immediately to ensure:
1.proper investigation of all rape cases and the ending of the current backlog
2.The protection of the dignity of all complainants of rape, particularly women
3.The passing of the Sexual Offences Bill with appropriate amendments
4.Mobilisation to end social tolerance of rape with guarantees that all accused are innocent until proven guilty

The conduct of this trial has put in question the principles of the equality of women; the prevention of HIV; the exercise of responsible sexual behaviour; the right to fair trial and the independence of the judiciary. TAC and civil society must not compromise on these principles.

We urge all survivors of rape not to allow the statements made during the course of this trial to deny their right to access justice. Rape is always a crime and we must fight for the legal justice system to always be accountable.

On this 10th anniversary of Parliament’s approval of our constitution, TAC remembers Lorna Mlofana, Nandipha Matyeke, Gugu Dlamini and many women who were victims of gender based violence. TAC will continue to strengthen its efforts to build a society in which women can live as equal citizens, where men respect women and where women can enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution. – Issued by TAC

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