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Publication Details

Reference
Burns , Catherine E (2006) Demonstration in support of the Zuma complainant.. Centre for Civil Society : -.

Summary
Dear friends and colleagues

The Jacob Zuma rape trial has made me very angry and sad. I know many people are beginning to write and speak about how they feel.

I will be joining Thenjiwe Magwaza and many others on Friday at the Durban High Court (where people will meet from 9am to 1pm) for 2 hours. I can give about 6 people a lift if needs be. I have to leave at 11 am or so to return to campus for meetings and so on and would be able to pick up people at 8:30 am. So please let me know if you would like to show your support for the right of any person in our country to lay a charge of rape; and the right of the courts and police to go ahead with a trial when and if they believe there is sufficient evidence for a trial to go ahead.

These are my reasons for being both sad and angry. As you all know we have two grim statistics hanging over our heads as South Africans: while we have one of the lowest conviction rates for rapists in the world we also have the world's highest reported rape rate. Like every other country on earth rape is more likely to occur with men as the aggressor and women as the victim of the assault. If anyone would like to read some of the articles I have collected the last 4 years from leading international and local journals of Medicine, Psychology, History, Criminology as well as Sociology about rape let me know and I will send you a list. South Africa's really shocking rape statistics have been carefully tracked and analyzed by amongst others a team of scientists and social analysts at the Medical Research Council who reported on them in detail in 2002.

These show that like every other state on earth a rapist in South Africa is "most likely, though not always" to be a man; a man known to the "not always but usually" female victim in some way, and the rape is most likely to occur on familiar turf, not against a woman or women in an alley-way or unusual space, by a war party, by strangers, or by a pathological man with a mental illness etc. The latter cases, while they occur--especially in times of war--are more widely reported than every day rape. Easier to sensationalize and of course deeply disturbing they are always in the minority in any country not at war.

The treatment of the complainant in this rape case, widely reported across SA and the world, has been a throwback to the past for many of us. Many reports the last few weeks by gender activists and legal commentators have noted that whether Zuma is guilty or not the complainant has had her entire childhood and sexual history cross-examined for days. She has had her name widely reported in the press. She and the prosecution lost their motion to have new legal thinking in rape trials followed in this one. The Judge was asked to rule her past sexual life, and that of Zuma, inadmissible, unless good cause was ARGUED by the defense. After ruling this way at first, the Judge reversed his ruling after argument from the defense, and said "he will decide later whether or not to rule the evidence admissible". This evidence was not led "in camera" and has been widely reported across the globe. Thus, even if the Judge eventually rules this evidence inadmissible later on, everyone in the world will have heard/read it already. Having said this the open court inside has been a hostile space but at least the law and due process, though flawed by years of patriarchal precedent in the view of many of us, have been followed. Newspaper over the past week such as the Mail & Guardian have traced these points and carried letters responding to them.

Outside the court the drama of patriarchy has been shocking. In the past 2 weeks we have seen older women miming raping the complainant on the ground. We have seen people claiming to be Zuma supporters saying they would "love to be raped" by Zuma or that they agree that even if Zuma raped the complainant she deserved it. We have seen people saying that the complainant was so lucky as to have been served sexually by such a great man. Today's image on the front of the Mail&Guardian web site is of a middle aged woman, like me, dressed in an outfit styled as "battle dress", that SAPA titles thus: "War cry" see http://www.mg.co.za . We have seen images of the complainant's face and body burned in front of the court room. We have seen images and heard sounds of a taxi blaring music supporting the accused pounding outside the court in Jhb so loudly that the police have eventually (and belatedly) forced it to move. We have seen purported supporters of Zuma chase coin security vans and create havoc in the blocks around the court. We have heard that the complaint is a stooge; a slut in the pay of Mbeki's faction; a pathological rape charger; a seductress; an attention seeker.

Interesting and sad.
We have not heard about Zuma's complex sexual History. Some might say that this is not business of the body politic of South Africa.

Really?
What do the charges of a "set up" require to make sense? They require a really really diabolical view of Zuma's sexuality. If he was being defended as a man with a tragic "sex pathology", like an alcoholic who when presented with a drink collapses as a personality, that would be one thing. But he is being defended by many people in South Africa who write about this on web sites and discuss this on talk shows, as just an "average man" and sometimes as an "average Zulu man". Thus it is not his particular sexual problem that is being defended but his general sexuality: he stands for others. This makes the defense of his sexual conduct a much vaster issue with very wide philosophical and moral implications. "Jacob Zuma as metonymy for EVERYMAN."

Zuma's Sexual Politics has been on view for some years now. This is the man who recently headed the Moral Regeneration Movement in South Africa. Could any work of imaginative fiction be less believable than this? Recently many UKZN academics, such as myself, were called to support this Movement and our then Deputy President, by no less than our Vice Chancellor and our College Head. This was just a few moths ago. Leaders from every sector of South African society have been "enjoined to get on board" with the Movement, led by KZN luminaries that include Narend Singh (now resigned from his provincial cabinet post because of an adulterous affair filmed and distributed widely in the last weeks). Zuma is the same man who has appealed in public for mentorship and leadership around the ABC of safe sex: "Abstinence; Be Faithful; and if neither are feasible in your life, always Condoms". This is the man who said female virginity testing and male self control were keys to stemming the HIV pandemic. This is the man who spoke about oral sex as "un African" in Parliament, when challenged by the African Christian Democratic Party about the South African Schools Life Skills Curricula and agreed it should be removed from texts discussing human sexuality in Schools. This is the man who sent me, and thousands like me, a Christmas public service message some years ago, enjoining me to protect myself and my family and "practice safe sex", via a cell message courtesy of my cellular provider! In short, this is a man who has made sexuality an issue of public debate and policy. He has claimed the moral high ground for himself.

To the matter of this case, Zuma is a man who first denied any sexual relations with the complainant and then some 10 days later alleged consensual sex.

So first he lied. But then, let us say, he told the truth later on. Going on the basis that he now tells the truth we can ask a few questions:

What is his truth? Is consensual sex with a major against the law? No. But it is against everything Zuma has given voice to in public life the last 7 years. He has had admitted unprotected sex with an HIV positive person, a close member of his family, his daughter's age, in his family home.

Ahem. If this is found to be the truth, is this grounds for conviction? No. Not in a court of law. But what about the court of public life? In South Africa today? Is this the moral regeneration you want for yourself? your family? your daughter? your son? your partner? your father?

I have saved the worst of my anger and sadness for last:

The major claim of the Zuma supporters is that Zuma has been framed: Ah yes. The voice of white hot racism ("any African man presented with a scantily clad woman WILL BE TRAPPED--unstoppable, force of nature, can't help it") rears its ugly head again.

The whole framing case rests on this fact. IF Mbeki had managed to have planted in Zuma's house a woman living with HIV, a friend of the family, just on the night of world-wide scrutiny of the man because of an ongoing corruption trial, etc etc; IF Mbeki and his team had managed to do this, why oh why could they be so sure that Zuma would be trapped by a such a person? A person who many thinking people might imagine to be a "long shot" for entrapment?

People who believe this are at the same time declaring about Zuma that he WOULD NEEDS be trapped by this scenario because any woman/vagina in his domain IS A POTENTIAL TRAP: he cannot resist a woman/vagina. It is not his fault. He is a victim of malicious and demon woman/vagina, like so many millions of men before him.

I feel sick writing this loathsome vagina/woman depiction. But it is what the entrapment argument has to make to have any veracity.

Every historian and anthropologist of Southern Africa as well as moral and philosophical researchers of this region has read the views voiced by racist eugenics or segregationalist from the Southern Africa of the 1800s to the 1980s. Their arguments are housed in too many volumes of pseudo scientific literature and mission texts and political tracts and ethnographic documents to list. The canon of western thought is, as many scholars have evinced these past 40 years or more, replete with formulations of libidinous black men underpinning arguments by whites that seek to legitimize slavery, justify colonial rule as well as a host of other social and political positions of white domination. Thabo Mbeki himself offered a stinging critique of the racist discourses of hyper sexualization of African men and the objectification of African women in his famous set of addresses around the return from France and then the re-interment of Sara Baartman in the western Cape some 3 years ago, and much contemporary literary analysis and historical critique of colonialism has made this point for the past 20 years at least. Here is the unfathomable issue: how come is this view now being voiced daily on www.friendsofjz.co.za and other spaces across our land afresh? A close reading of this web site (which gets up to 280 postings daily) will set your head aflame with the most narrow minded and prejudicial view of African men's bodies and African women's obligations that I have seen since reading some of the aforementioned 19th century racist imaginings of "the body of the savage". It is heart breaking to have spent years of my academic life writing against this bilge, and reading the work of people I respect in many disciplines along the same lines, to see it propagated by young black men and some women, as well as Trade Unionists and officials of Youth Leagues and so on, in support of the ex Deputy President of our country! Here is how the argument goes: Jacob Zuma was framed in the same way any good man can be: by a vagina/woman. The vagina/woman is always set into place by more powerful forces of evil. The vagina/woman is demonized--the man is a victim of Eve all over again. Women/vaginas are trafficked as part of the commerce of daily life. Of course Zuma was trapped! Any man in his place would have been! And here is the additional catch: especially any African man.

This makes me as angry and as sad as the excoriation of the complainant.

True friends of Jacob Zuma, if he is telling the truth about consensual sex --breaking his private and public contracts with his customarily married wives, as well as his public proclamations of faith as a national leader-- would surely say: take a time out Mr Zuma. Heal thyself. Regeneration is needed alright, but look thee to thyself!

Please come on Friday if you can.
all best wishes
catherine burns

Catherine E Burns (PhD)
Associate Professor of History
School of Anthropology, Gender & Historical Studies
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Howard College Campus
South Africa
Tel 27-31 260 2619/2620
Fax 27-31 260 2621
burnsc@ukzn.ac.za



Thenjiwe Magwaza

Dear All

We request you and your colleagues to consider joining us (in Durban)as we pledge and demonstrate support for the "Zuma complainant".

Please distribute amongst people who could offer support and note that the demonstrations will be country-wide at various regional courts.

Date: Friday, 24 March 2006
Venue: Outside Durban High Court (Salmon Grove)
Time: 9h00 am - 13h00 pm

Dr Thenjiwe Magwaza
Senior Lecturer, Gender Studies
School of Anthropology, Gender & Historical Studies
Howard College Campus
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Durban, 4041
27 31 2601114/2915 (Tel)
27 31 2601133 (Fax)
magwazat1@ukzn.ac.za

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