Kodwa rape allegations: When was it right to name him?

2019-02-25 06:15
Zizi Kodwa (File, Son)

Zizi Kodwa (File, Son)

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In the wake of rape allegations against ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, there has been debate about the ethics of naming a rape suspect before they have pleaded in court.

A prominent lawyer on social media said that if there is no criminal case pending, it is not a criminal offence to name someone accused of rape, provided the report is true or accurate and, crucially, in the public interest.

But the ethics of the matter are far from resolved.

On Saturday, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte confirmed to journalists on Saturday that the party had received a rape complaint against a high ranking member of the party.

She said the ANC had advised the woman to go to the police, and the party confirmed that the man was Kodwa.

News24 opted not to name the man until he had been given an opportunity to respond to the allegation. He could not be reached for comment on Saturday night. Several other media outlets named him as Kodwa.

On Sunday, however, Kodwa went public, issuing a statement denying the allegations. He said the complainant’s letter to the ANC was “replete with false accusations” and was a “feeble yet dangerous attempt at political blackmail and manipulation”.

Before Kodwa’s statement was released, a debate raged on about the ethics of naming him as the suspect in question, even if his identity was revealed by the ANC.

Legal journalist at Tiso Blackstar Karyn Maughan said there was a double standard as the Dros rapist was not named by some media houses until he had pleaded in court.

Media lawyer at Webber Wentzel Attorneys, Dario Milo however, said that in the absence of a criminal charge being filed (as in the Dros case), common law applies.

Without commenting on the specific case, he said that if there was no criminal process, so-called common law rules about naming suspects would apply – they can be named before they have appeared in court "provided it is true and in the public interest to do so".

Kodwa is a public figure and prominent politician. The Dros rape accused, conversely, is a private citizen.

The complainant too opted not to lay a police complaint against Kodwa, but rather send a letter to his organisation, the ANC.

If a criminal charge had been laid, however, it would be an offence in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act to name someone accused of a sexual offence before pleading in court.

However, Milo noted that the law could be inconsistent here at times, because if it is in the public interest, a suspect can be named before appearing in court, but once the suspect is charged with a sexual offence, that person cannot be named until they plead.

The ANC meanwhile on Sunday said it was concerned about the allegations.

The party had not made a decision on Kodwa's continued role at Luthuli House, but said due processes should be followed so that both the complainant and the accused were respected.

Read more on:    zizi ko­dwa  |  law  |  media  |  politics
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