South African Deputy President Tried for Rape In South Africa, former Deputy President Jacob Zuma faces trial on charges of raping a family friend. Once a major figure in the national government, Zuma was fired last year by President Thabo Mbeki amid corruption allegations.
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South African Deputy President Tried for Rape

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South African Deputy President Tried for Rape

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South African Deputy President Tried for Rape

South African Deputy President Tried for Rape

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In South Africa, former Deputy President Jacob Zuma faces trial on charges of raping a family friend. Once a major figure in the national government, Zuma was fired last year by President Thabo Mbeki amid corruption allegations.

ED GORDON, host:

Now, from Ghana to South Africa, where the political career of a former African National Congress star could be at an end. Former Deputy president Jacob Zuma is accused of raping a family friend. President Thabo Mbeki fired Zuma last year over allegations of corruption. Zuma had once been viewed by many in South Africa as the leading candidate to succeed Mbeki as president. Zuma supporters say he's being framed on both the rape and the corruption charges. They claim the prosecutions are politically motivated. NPR's Jason Beaubien reports from Johannesburg.

JASON BEAUBIEN reporting:

Outside the Johannesburg high court, police in riot gear keeping several dozen Jacob Zuma supporters from getting too close to the front of the courthouse. One protester waves a black, green and yellow ANC flag; several hold signs saying, the friends of Jacob Zuma are behind you. One man's T-shirt declares, conspiracy, corruption, rape, what's next.

Ms. UGILLIAN(ph) MOSASUWE(ph) (AIDS Activist): I love Zuma; we love Zuma. They all love Zuma. Zuma is a good man. He never lied. That woman should not have lied and must come out with the truth. The truth will set that woman free.

BEAUBIEN: Ugillian Mosasuwe, says the 31-year old AIDS activist, has brought the rape charges to discredit the former deputy president. Although the judge has ordered that the accuser's identity not be revealed, several papers have divulged her name. In addition, earlier this week, Mosasuwe and several other protesters burned pictures of the woman outside the court. Mosasuwe is unapologetic about the way Zuma's accuser is being vilified.

Ms. MOSASUWE: She is lying about our president. She doesn't need our respect. She is taking [unintelligible] of Zuma away.

BEAUBIEN: The alleged rapes sent shockwaves through the ruling African National Congress. After Zuma was ousted as deputy president last year over corruption allegations, his political career appear to be faltering. But many on the left wing of the ANC rallied around him. Political analysts here say this trial, particularly, if he is convicted, could end the 63-year old's political aspirations.

The rape allegedly occurred in November. The accuser is openly HIV positive and a lesbian. She is a long-time family friend of Zuma's and says she usually called him Malume(ph) or uncle. On the night in question, she was staying at his house, and according to her testimony, Zuma told her that being HIV positive doesn't mean she doesn't have, quote, "physical needs", and he joked about tucking her in.

She says that after she had fallen asleep, Zuma came into her room naked, began massaging her shoulders, and then raped her without a condom. Through a statement read by his lawyers, Zuma says the sex was consensual.

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BEAUBIEN: South Africa has some of the highest rate for violent crime including rape in the world. The Zuma trial has prompted a national debate about sexual violence. And outside the court, but separated by Zuma supporters, two dozen people in T-shirts that say, against her will, against the law, are holding their own vigil. Catherine Nkato(ph) is with People Opposing Women Abuse.

Ms. CATHERINE NKATO (People Opposing Women Abuse): We are here for the survival variance [unintelligible]. So we are to give the support. We are to educate people that there is a need [unintelligible]

BEAUBIEN: Nkato says most rapes in South Africa are never reported to the police, and when they are, few lead to a conviction. Sexual assaults in which the victim and the rapist know each other is often dismissed here as a private matter. Zuma's trial on corruption charges is set to begin at the end of July.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Johannesburg.

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GORDON: That's our program for today. Thanks for joining us. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. And if you'd like to comment, call us at 202-408-3330. NEWS AND NOTES was created by NPR News and the African American Public Radio Consortium.

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