Zuma 'was willing to engage in lobola talks'

By Time of article published Apr 4, 2006

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By Karyn Maughan and Gill Gifford

Jacob Zuma was prepared to marry an HIV-positive woman days after she had claimed he had raped her.

The former deputy president also said he had offered to pay for his accuser to study overseas and construct a fence around her family's home in KwaMashu.

Zuma said he made these promises during a meeting with the complainant's mother at his home on the day the news of the rape charge broke.

But, according to Zuma, these overtures did not mean he attempted to persuade the complainant to withdraw the charge against him.

These were some of the points in Zuma's evidence at the Johannesburg High Court on Monday.

Zuma, who was testifying in Zulu, said he had asked two female intermediaries to talk to the complainant after she had charged him with rape.

The women had concluded that his accuser was "upset" that he had not phoned her after their sexual encounter on November 2.

"They felt that there was a love relationship here... (and said) 'You had better marry her'. "They asked me if I would do it or not; what is in my mind," Zuma said.

Asked by his defence counsel, Kemp J Kemp, how he had responded to the women's suggestion, Zuma answered: "I said to them if that's her wish, I have no problem with starting lobola negotiations."

But, when it seemed that the suggested lobola talks failed to lead to the withdrawal of the rape charge, Zuma said he tried to contact his accuser directly - a week after the alleged rape incident had occurred.

Zuma said he had also wanted to talk to the complainant's mother because "I deemed it necessary to explain to her what had happened and find out why (the complainant) had laid the charge".

Although the complainant initially suggested that she and her mother would meet Zuma in Durban, the meeting never took place.

Zuma stood for all but the last hour-and-a-half of his evidence. He frequently pushed his glasses up his nose and wiped his eyes with his hands, moving his gaze away from Judge Willem van der Merwe only once during his testimony.

That was when Kemp questioned him about incriminating police evidence that had identified the accuser's guest room as the "alleged crime scene".

While the complainant identified the guest room as the location of the alleged rape, Zuma has claimed that consensual sex took place in his bedroom.

"My Lord, I was not asked to point (the alleged crime scene) out. I was asked to point out the guest room, the study and my bedroom," said Zuma, adding that police Commissioner Norman Taioe had never asked, while standing in the guest room, "Is this where it happened?"

"My Lord, that is not true, it did not happen," he said.

Asked by Kemp if he had told Taioe and senior police official Peter Linda that "nothing happened" in his bedroom, he again repeated his denial.

While Taioe and Linda - whose evidence was earlier labelled as "lies" by Kemp - remained impassive during Zuma's evidence, Linda laughed and joked with Zuma after he had completed his evidence on Monday afternoon.

Zuma further placed responsibility for a statement he had earlier handed over to Taioe and Linda - in which he denied raping the complainant but failed to directly mention the fact that he had had sex with her - at the door of his attorney, Michael Hulley.

"At that time... the issue was already everywhere in the media. (Hulley) advised me not to talk much," he said.

He also claimed to have no knowledge of a radio interview Hulley had given to Cape Talk radio a day after news of the alleged rape broke in the media and four days after he and Zuma had provided the police with an exculpatory statement about the alleged rape incident.

During the interview, Hulley claimed that Zuma's legal team had not yet received any information about the rape charge from the police.

In an apparent response to questions raised about his HIV status, Zuma earlier told the court the complainant had "no reason to believe" that having sex with him could leave her vulnerable to reinfection or a sexually transmitted disease.

"So she was not at risk?" Kemp asked Zuma.

"No," he answered, after earlier claiming his role as chairperson of the Aids Council had forced him to have "better knowledge" about HIV/Aids.

Earlier, Zuma accused former National Prosecuting Authority boss Bulelani Ngcuka, Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils and several unnamed newspaper editors of being part of a political plot to discredit him.

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