JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - South Africa's most
politically explosive trial since the end of apartheid neared a
conclusion Wednesday, with the prosecution describing as
"fanciful" an assertion by former Deputy President Jacob Zuma
that he had consensual sex with the woman who has accused him of
Prosecutor Charin de Beer told the Johannesburg High Court in
closing arguments that the 31-year-old HIV-positive woman would
never have agreed to sex with Zuma because she regarded him as a
father figure; wasn't interested in him sexually because she is a
lesbian; and that she would have insisted on a condom, which was
"It is clear that she was raped," de Beer said.
Zuma denies the charge, saying it was part of a plot to destroy
his lingering hopes of becoming president when Thabo Mbeki leaves
office in 2009. But de Beer said no evidence was submitted to
back this up.
"His allegations of a politically motivated conspiracy ended up
being nothing more than unsubstantiated conjecture," she said.
Judge Willem van der Merwe has said he will issue his decision in
It had been widely assumed that Zuma, a 64-year-old former
freedom fighter, would become president, until Mbeki dismissed
him when he was implicated in a bribery scandal last year. He
stands trial for corruption in July.
Zuma remains deputy president of the governing African National
Congress and has considerable support among rank-and-file party
Zuma's trial has focused a spotlight on sexual abuse and AIDS in
South Africa, which has some of the world's highest rates of
The trial has gripped the nation, with Zuma's defense lawyers
aggressively probing the complainant's sexual past and arguing
that she has a history of making false rape claims. The woman
testified she was raped for the first time as a 5-year-old, while
her parents were in exile from the white-minority regime.
It was during this period that the woman's family grew close to
Zuma, who was a leader of the ANC's military wing.
De Beer said that the woman regarded Zuma as a father figure and
frequently turned to him for advice and support after the death
of her father.
She said that on the night of the alleged rape, the complainant
had laughed off advances by Zuma. When he came into the guest
room and woke her from her sleep, she said: "No, uncle," three
"She never consented to having sex with the accused. ... She said
she was scared, couldn't move, talk or anything," de Beer said.
Given her HIV-positive status, de Beer said the woman would never
have agreed to sex without a condom.
Zuma claimed the woman insisted he have sex with her, and that
Zulu culture demanded he proceed because she was aroused.
"This is such an absurd reason to proceed without a condom that
it ought to be rejected outright as, at most, Zuma culture," de
She also dismissed as "fanciful" and "laughable" Zuma's
assertions that the woman sent him flirty cell phone text
messages and wore a knee-length skirt to entice him.
During the trial, Zuma told the court that he was not infected
with the virus that causes AIDS. Zuma, who used to head the South
African National AIDS Commission, caused an outcry among health
professionals by testifying that the risk of him contracting the
virus from unprotected sex was minimal and that he took a shower
after intercourse to further reduce the chance of infection.
AIDS activists fear that his testimony will undermine prevention
efforts in South Africa, where up to 6 million people are
estimated to carry the virus. Women's rights advocates also say
they fear that the aggressive questioning of the complainant will
deter victims from reporting abuse.
The state is expected to wrap up its case Friday. It will then be
the defense's turn to sum up.