The league has said the controversial anti-rape protest as President Jacob Zuma was speaking at the Independent Electoral Commission’s results centre in Tswhane three days before the 60th anniversary of Women’s Day was orchestrated by the EFF.
The protest was in support of the woman who accused Zuma of rape, a charge he was acquitted of in 2006. The ANC Women’s League condemned it. Spokesperson Thokozile Xasa said the women who stood silently holding placards with slogans including “I am 1 in 3”, “Remember Khwezi” and “10 years later”, as Zuma gave a speech at the presentation of the local government election results were being used by men.
“It was too opportunistic because they knew the whole world was going to be watching and you haven’t really seen those women coming up and taking up those issues in public other than that opportunity,” she said. One of the women who was involved in the protest is understood to be a member of the EFF.
The protest ignited debate across the media spectrum about the plight of rape victims and the silence about rape culture in the mainstream political discourse. Xasa said the ANCWL would rather encourage those women to approach them to discuss the issues they were raising.
This would be in a bid to come up with better ways of engaging and working on the problems, she said. Asked about the stark difference in the ANCWL’s reaction to the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, in which the organisation supported his murdered girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp’s family, and the 2006 rape trial of Jacob Zuma, then deputy president of the ANC, Xasa said the media had played a big role in creating the perception that the league was selectively supportive of women’s rights.
However, an excerpt from former Business Day editor Songezo Zibi’s book Raising The Bar: Hope and Renewal in South Africa, recounts the events leading up to Zuma’s acquittal, pointing out that the ANCWL were openly supportive of the rape-accused ANC leader, even before he was found not guilty.
“In fact, many women supporters of Zuma who kept vigil outside the Johannesburg high court sang songs that proposed violence against the complainant and even burnt effigies of her,” he wrote.