On the evening of what could arguably be called the worst night of President Jacob Zuma’s political career to date, the president had to deal with a group of women staging a silent protest against him linked to his rape trial. He was accused in December 2005 by a young woman who was the daughter of a friend of his.
Zuma had probably prepared himself for having to field questions and accusations about why the ANC’s support has dropped so dramatically over just a five-year period, but when he took the stage to speak as the guest of honour at the national results centre of the Independent Electoral Commission in Pretoria, the women stood in front of him with their posters carrying the words and one symbol, from left to right: “I am 1 in 3”, “#”, “10 years later”, “Khanga” and “Remember Khwezi”.
— POWER987 News (@POWER987News) August 6, 2016
The message was clear, since Zuma had said during his rape trial that his accuser, an HIV-positive young woman, had worn a kanga on the night in question, which he had taken as an invitation to sex. “One in three” is a reference to “one in three” women being raped during their lives, statistically, in South Africa. It has been 10 years since the rape trial, during which Zuma said he had a shower after having sex with the woman, “Khwezi” (not her real name), since it occurred to him only after the act that he had exposed himself to contracting HIV.
The young women wearing black were forcibly removed from the gathering. The Citizen’s Yadhana Jadoo captured a moment when someone walked past them and knocked them down. The president’s bodyguards ushered them out of the venue with great force, and the young women reportedly screamed.
— Yadhana Jadoo ♥ (@Yadhana) August 6, 2016
When Zuma sat down, he was laughing and smiling about the incident.
Zuma reportedly left the gathering soon after. It was unclear if it was related to the women in black.
eNCA interviewed one of the protesters, Simamkele Dlakavu, at 7.45pm. She said that all four of them were together “and safe”. She said that they decided to act because they were refusing to let the nation forget about Zuma’s rape victim.
She disputed that Zuma’s acquittal meant he was not guilty. She said: “We believe Khwezi. We remember what was done to her and we support her.”
She accused the eNCA of not covering a rape memorial. She said that black women were organising a big #1in3 protest against “rape culture” in South Africa.
ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini said Zuma had never been found guilty of rape and the protest was trivialising a very serious issue that all women, including herself and her organisation, cared about. She said the young women were EFF members and what they were busy with was electioneering.
She wanted an apology from the IEC for allowing such a stunt to take place.
“You need to be sure of who’s sitting in front and have an understanding of what might happen at that event so that you can react.”
Watch the video from the event where Zuma spoke below.