Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

South Africa: A Trial That Both Sides Will Lose

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

South Africa: A Trial That Both Sides Will Lose

Article excerpt

Three weeks into the rape trial of the man once seen as South Africa's next president, and the deep divisions at the heart of the "rainbow nation" have been exposed as never before.

In essence, the question before Court 4E of the Johannesburg High Court is simple: did the former deputy president Jacob Zuma, as the state alleges, invite the 31-year-old, HIV-positive daughter of a fellow veteran of the African National Congress to stay over at his home and then force himself on her in the guest bedroom? Or was this, as the 63-year-old father-of-ten claims, a consensual act with a woman who has made "similar false charges" against others and has a history of psychological problems?

For Zuma, who was fired from the government last June but remains ANC deputy president, a guilty verdict would surely be the end of his political career. That he is also due to face trial for corruption this summer demonstrates the scale of the challenge before him. But this trial is about much more than one man's fate; it is about the future direction of the country, or so Zuma would have us believe.


From the start, his supporters have claimed the charges are part of a plot to destroy him by those within the ANC desperate to stop him from succeeding President Thabo Mbeki in 2008. Zuma's lead counsel, Kemp J Kemp, has made this assertion central to the defence, asking almost every witness which ANC "camp" they support.

What divides the camps? To the Zuma supporters singing and dancing outside, their man is "100 per cent Zulu boy", whereas the government--and by inference the anti-Zuma plotters--are predominantly Xhosa. To others, the case is a left-right struggle in which Zuma champions ordinary people against a business-friendly government.

Mpho Mosehle, a 26-year-old Zuma supporter, has yet another explanation: "Zuma was the ANC's head of intelligence. …

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