Nuclear weapons was the first political issue I ever cared about. It's no surprise that nuclear weapons terrified me, as a young child living in Britain in the early 1980s. We moved to New Zealand in 1983 and in our first letter back to our relatives we list the things we like and don't like about New Zealand. At age 5 no nuclear weapons was second on my list
But the second political issue I ever cared about was apartheid.* Obviously we weren't in New Zealand for The Tour. But we went on anti-apartheid protests, and I understood what was going on for a very early age. We sang 'Free Nelson Mandela' (and my Dad would usually add 'with every world leader sold') - I knew what ANC stood for.
I know it hasn't stood for that for a very long time (if it ever did stand for what 8 year old me, imagined it stood for). I know that the ANC are now doing the capitalists' work.
I've been an activist for years. I know that men rape women within political movements. I know that it doesn't matter how much they talk about solidarity, there are men who abuse the power that they have.
I'm still surprised, even though I shouldn't be. I was surprised, disgusted, sickened, upset and angry, at the rape trial of Jacob Zuma. He was acquitted; they always are.
Jacob Zuma is a powerful member of the ANC - he used to be deputy president. Last year he raped a 31 year old woman, a family friend who was more than half his age.
The trial sounds hideous, and familiar. She was put on trial and her sexual history, including other times she had been raped, was put into evidence. When Zuma took the stand he argued that she consented by wearing a knee-length skirt and complaining that she didn't have a boyfriend:
She had never in the past come to my house dressed in a skirt. Including times when I was living in Pretoria. When she came to me in a skirt after those talks I referred to earlier on, well, it told me something.The judge, well the judge is a misogynist asshole, who said that she didn't act as rape victims should.
Like I said, any illusions I had about the ANC were broken long ago. But this raises a much wider issue. The woman who raised the complaint was twice raped by ANC members in exile, when she was just 13.
This isn't rare, there is a long history of men in left-wing political movements (of many different sorts) claiming to believe in equality and raping women.
There are men who believe that women are objects, rather than human beings. There are many, many more men who won't challenge those men's beliefs. How can we create any kind of movement under those circumstances?
If you want to know more about the case Black Looks has more on the subject. You should also check out One in Nine an awesome website of the group that was set up to support the accuser:
The One in Nine Campaign was launched in February 2006. The purpose of the campaign is to ensure that the courage and action of Khwezi, the woman who has filed a rape charge against the former Deputy President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is affirmed and supported through direct action, the mass media and through strengthening the level of debate and analysis in society of the gender dimensions of the case.* Margaret Thatcher came into power the year after I was born, so for almost all of my life I've lived in countries dominated by neo-liberal reforms. It's interesting that the two issues I knew most about politically as a child were mostly about things happening in other countries. I know my parents were aware of, and attended protests about, other issues. But there is probably a wider point to be made about the political focus in the 1980s - another time.