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Women's rights activists denied permission to protest Tyson/Zuma gathering


January 30, 2008

JOHANNESBURG — The One in Nine Campaign is outraged by the impending charity event hosted by Emperor�s Palace in Johannesburg in which Mike Tyson and Jacob Zuma will share the platform as guests of honour.

Mr Tyson has a poor track-record and well articulated disrespect for human rights in general and women�s rights in particular. Some of his well known acts of violence in both the public and private domain have included: rape of 18 year old woman in 1992 (for which he served three years of his sentence), biting off a piece of an ear of his opponent in 1997. In 1999 he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault charges in Maryland. He has made statements such as eating his opponent�s (Lennox Lewis) children. In recent years he has been found in possession of and driving under the influence of illegal substances. He has proved less than ideal as a role model in either his sporting or personal life.

Mr Zuma has a poor track record and perceived commitment to women�s rights. His statements prior, during and post rape trial reveal his patriarchal beliefs on men and women�s roles and rights in South Africa.

Despite his apologies and explanations immediately after the rape trial for statements made during the trial, Mr Zuma has done little to assuage the fears of women and women�s rights organizations. In his various statements since being elected as the President of the ANC, he has not addressed what a Zuma leadership / presidency means for women�s rights in South Africa.

It is in the face of this and the extraordinarily high level of violence committed against women in South Africa on a daily basis that this pairing of Zuma and Tyson is particularly distasteful and abhorrent to the members of the One in Nine Campaign.

According to South African Police Services annual report 2006/07; the number of domestic violence incidents reported during the period under review was 45 454, out of which only 17 663 resulted in criminal cases being opened.

The current statistics according to the South African Police Services indicates reported rapes of 52,617. However other crime categories such as murder, indecent assault and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm are not gender disaggregated, therefore South African crime statistics reflect a tiny fraction of women�s experiences of violence.

During this event Mr Tyson will presumably receive the endorsement of Mr Jacob Zuma, president of the ANC and potentially the future president of South Africa as a role model. While Mr Tyson may well have served his sentence for the rape of which he was convicted in 1992, as recently as November he was found to be driving under the influence of illegal substances. It begs the question – what do we expect from our role models and leadership? Surely in a country like South Africa, a good leader and role model should also be an advocate for women�s rights and work towards the eradication of violence against women.

The One in Nine Campaign, in the course of applying for permission to stage a peaceful protest outside the Centre Court, at Emperor�s Palace where the event taking place, was informed by the Johannesburg International Airport Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police that Emperor�s Palace is a national key point and that public gatherings are prohibited at national key points. We have since contacted and met with management from Emperor�s Palace and executives from the holding company (Peermont) for permission to stage the gathering.

During this meeting Emperor�s Palace guaranteed an acknowledgement of and denouncement of violence against women by Tyson during his address and an inclusion of material from the One in Nine Campaign raising concerns over violence against women in South Africa.

The One in Nine Campaign is deeply disappointed by the denial of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and peaceful public assembly.

The One in Nine members call on:
  • Those organizations that are endorsing and participating in the event to remove their support and sponsorship and commit tangibly to ending violence against women
  • Companies and individuals to boycott the event and to donate the money directly to the charities (and not through the organizers of this event)
  • Mr Zuma to clarify his position on women�s rights and withdraw his endorsement and participation at the Mike Tyson event. – Issued by One in Nine Campaign

    For further comment contact:

    Carrie Shelver 083 628 6996
    Dumisani Rebombo 083 650 4995
    Wendy Isaack 079 526 2949
    Delphine Serumaga 083 414 9949

    Editor's note: January 31, 2008 - A spokesperson for Emperor's Palace confirmed that Jacob Zuma pulled out of the gala dinner, at the last hour.

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