By Gill Gifford
It has been four years since Jacob Zuma stepped out of the Johannesburg High Court acquitted on a rape charge, while his accuser left under police guard for life in exile.
The One in Nine Campaign - a group of organisations and individuals working for social justice for women - undertook to mark the "fourth memorial of the Zuma judgment" on Tuesday by staging a protest outside the same court where the trial took place.
Throughout the morning they drew attention to the South African justice system that has seen many more women than "Khwezi" go through a harrowing ordeal in the hands of the courts.
"Khwezi" was the name given to the woman who claimed that Zuma, a close friend of her father, had raped her one night when she went to visit him.
She told the court she was HIV positive and a lesbian, and had not consented to having sex with the man she knew as "uncle".
Zuma claimed he had been seduced in his own bed by Khwezi and had had unprotected sex with her despite knowing her HIV status. He had simply taken a shower afterwards to minimise the risk of infection.
"We are here today to say that we remember, and the way the judge pronounced on her sexuality and called her a liar was unacceptable," said One in Nine project officer Kwezilomso Mbandazayo.
"Today Khwezi is in exile and Zuma is in the Presidency. That says a lot about the state of our country."
According to Mbandazayo, Khwezi still feels threatened and is living outside of South Africa.
Statements have been made to her, saying that if she ever wishes to return to South Africa she must apologise to Zuma. At the time of the court case Zuma supporters rallied outside the building, singing his praises and burning images of Khwezi.
"What that case did was expose to the world what happens in our courts everyday," Mbandazayo said.
A group of women who were members or supporters of the One in Nine campaign gathered outside the court wearing t-shirts emblazoned with logos such as "Stop the War on Women's Bodies", "Violence = Silence" and "It's not news. Justice is blind to women's legal rights".
Emphasising their cause were several black cardboard silhouettes placed up against the court fencing, each bearing statistics outlining the cause for which One in Nine is fighting:
- Between April 1 and December 31, 2007 - a period of nine months - 36 190 rapes were reported to the police.
- Only 7.6 percent of prosecuted rape cases involving an adolescent survivor result in conviction.
- If only one out of every nine rapes are reported, this means that half a million women are raped each year.
- 46.8 percent of rapes reported by adult women result in arrest.
- Only 2 percent of rape dockets contain the results of DNA testing.
- One in ever three men accused of rape is granted bail, with the average bail set at R2 000.
"So basically our research has shown that the conviction rate for rape in South Africa is around 7 percent, so the courts are essentially ruling that more than 90 percent of women lie. We as a campaign don't believe that is true. Somewhere in the system is a failure to convict.
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