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Former South African Deputy President Charged with Rape

December 6, 2005

Suspended South African Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, already on trial for corruption, has been charged with rape in an ongoing political scandal that is splitting the ruling ANC along its historic fault lines.

First, a caveat. I don’t have inside gen on this one. Although I have been, technically, a part of the ‘liberation movement’ since I joined the African National Congress in 1992 (I am no longer a member), I don’t have any moles in high places who have given inside info.

To make things worse, I am not even in South Africa. I have been based in Scotland for the past 7 months, so I have only been accessing this story through the mainstream media.

But if you’re still reading, I have a few things to say:

Is it all a conspiracy?

Many in the left wing of the Alliance – the Communist Party (SACP) and the union condeferation Cosatu – feel that the corruption trial against him was part of a conspiracy by the increasingly right wing ANC elite to marginalise him, and that the rape charge is just a further attempt to smear him. At least until the rape charge, they have come out very strongly in his favour, even though he was found guilty of corruption. Some even wore Zuma for president T-shirts.

But here the left is making the same mistake that the Labour left in the UK makes when the idolise Gordon Brown and think that the dark days of New Labour spin will end when Bliar is shown the door and the dour Scot takes over. They are wrong. Both Brown and Zuma have built a support base among trade unionists, and they may deliver a few favours, but if the left’s strategy is down to putting all your faith in one Great Leader, then we still haven’t learnt anything from Stalin.

I’ll repeat it slowly for those comrades as the back with learning difficulties:

Power serves power. The only way forward is to disperse power as widely as possible, by returning it to grassroots levels. That means, if you’re a trade unionist, stop playing politics and build the shopfloor.

This Young Communist League paper has some useful thoughts. Mazibuko Jara, who wrote the paper, is facing possible suspension for ‘undermining the leagues’ support for Zuma’, for basically pointing out that there is nothing particularly left wing about his positions.

Having said all of that, it is entirely possible that this is an attempt to sideline the left. Yes, he is guilty of corruption – but then so are a lot of people in our government and the new elite, and we’re accustomed to seeing whitewashes rather than witchhunts. Why did the go after so aggressively? Clearly, some one decided to sacrifice Zuma, either to the gods of clean government, or because he was the left’s sacred cow.

I suspect the latter has something to do with it, and seeing the schisms appearing in the ANC has left me feeling not a little schadenfreude. The liberation movement has tied the left up into so many ridiculous compromises that it has become impossible to untangle, and the sooner we cut the whole mess apart and split the Alliance the better. That way, the unions can go back to fighting for workers rather than selling an ANC government to an increasingly cynical electorate, and the SACP can either disappear up its dialectical arse or become an effective left opposition.

Is he guilty of rape? He denies it, and there is confusion over wether he admitted consensual sex or not.

It is entirely possible that he committed rape. It is, after all, a fairly popular pass time among South African men, despite being nominally against the law. It is also entirely possible that it is all part of a grand conspiracy by the ANC, though personally I doubt it. I don’t credit them with concocting the rape story because I don’t think they see rape as serious crime.

My advice: leave well enough alone, and give ’em enough rope.

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