A few weeks ago, Jacob Zuma was named the new head of the African National Congress. This is part of a larger struggle in South Africa against the policies of the ANC, which has been carrying out a neo-liberal agenda ever since it gained power. Zuma is the left-wing candidate; Zuma's supporters sang Lethu Mshini Wami (bring me my machine gun). I haven't read much discussion of this on the blogs I read, which surprised me. I don't know enough about South African politics to offer any analysis of the ANC. But I wanted to comment on the discussion of Zuma's election, or the lack of it. There's definitely been more attention among the socialist blogs I read than the feminist blogs, and the analysis is a little bit like the paragraph above. From Lenin's Tomb:
Zuma is far from the ideal man to lead such a fight, burdened as he is with corruption charges over bribes from a French arms company, and he is actually doing his best to present his policies as pro-business. He is in all probability an opportunist who has harnessed a unique chance based on the unrest. However, the fact that he has successfully channelled the energy of this revolt into a leadership bid which may lead to him taking power in the ANC (but not the country) is itself significant. And however disappointing Zuma is likely to be (Chavez, he ain't - even Chavez isn't always Chavez), the very fact of ousting the wretched Mbeki may give further confidence to the already insurgent working class.There's something missing from these stories. Zuma is a rapist. He was acquitted - they always are. But in 2005 he raped 31 year old woman who was a friend of the family. I wrote about the trial last year:
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."This has been treated as a side-note by many different people. From AP Zuma was acquitted of rape last year, but could still face bribery charges in a multimillion-dollar arms deal. From WSWS "Zuma was sacked from office as deputy president by Mbeki and then faced a further trial on rape charges last year, in which he was acquitted."
Maybe it's just that the New Zealand left has developed some clarity on these issues, but if a powerful man is accused of rape and is acquitted that doesn't mean he's not a rapist. It means he is a rapist.
The inability to call a rapist a rapist displays an indifference to rape as a political issue. When asked in 1999, 1 in 3 Johannesburg women said they had been raped in the last year - they deserve more than one line in an analysis of the political meaning of Zuma's victory.