Questions after Zuma raises wife’s rape

2014-05-06 00:00

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s claim that the Nkandla upgrades were necessary because his wife was raped over a decade ago, has left more questions than answers says Sonke Gender Justice Network.

And the organisation has questioned whether Zuma was sensitive towards his first wife Sizakele MaKhumalo Zuma and his reason for raising the issue only now.

MaKhumalo was raped in July 1999. The Witness reported at the time that the suspects were armed with pangas and pistols. They assaulted MaKhumalo and raped her at her Nkandla home. The four men took R2 000, a generator, a television and Zuma’s traditional attire.

The attacks on Zuma’s family and the increase in incidents of rape in Nkandla played a crucial role in the Department of Public Works being able to justify the controversial R246-million upgrade of Zuma’s traditional home in Nkandla.

But speaking to journalists yesterday at the ANC’s final breakfast briefing before tomorrow’s elections, Zuma said when he was an MEC in KwaZulu-Natal his homestead was burnt down and when he was deputy president criminals broke in to his home and raped his wife. “It is not theoretical this issue about security at Nkandla,” he said.

He did not betray any emotion when speaking about the rape of his wife.

He emphasised that, as president, he was eligible for certain benefits and for security provided by the state, but maintained that he had paid for the construction of his Nkandla homestead by means of a bond.

“That is why I’m not worried about Nkandla. It isn’t my problem,” he said.

Desmond Lesejane, spokesperson for Sonke Gender Justice Network, said while it was “normally good for a victim of rape to speak out” the presidency’s statement left “more questions”.

“The president finds himself locked in a political battle concerning the Nkandla upgrades. Why would he want to mention what happened to MaKhumalo only now after all this time. By making an announcement like this you would have hoped there was sensitivity surrounding the issue. Did MaKhumalo ever receive counselling and what support did she receive?”

He said the rape of MaKhumalo added to the perception that South Africa was the “rape capital of the world”.

“If woman of such stature can be raped it shows we have serious problem in this country. We are thankful that the president is able to protect his wife but we cannot rest until all women feel safe at home, at work and in public spaces,” said Lesenjane.

At the time of the attack Zuma, just one month into the job as deputy president, was attending the funeral of former deputy president of Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo. The attackers were arrested within days.

In June 2001 the Mtunzini high court found Bernard Mabaso, Xolani Mkhize, Sphiwe Zulu and Piet Duma guilty of breaking into Zuma’s house at Nkandla, and assaulting and raping his wife before making off with various items.

Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner sentenced Mabaso and Zulu to life for rape. They were also jailed for 15 years for robbery.

Duma was imprisoned for 15 years for robbery, 10 years for rape and 10 for assaulting Zuma’s wife, while he received another six years for theft.

Mkhize was jailed for three years for theft and three years for the possession of firearms without licence.

Zuma said at the time, “I welcome the ruling of the court. Justice has been done…”

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