I hope the following news article addresses—even if from a ‘limited perspective’—some of the points you raised, concerning Afrikan culture (or African patriarchy?) vis-à-vis Western feminism/influence, or the different cultural perspectives of looking at such an incident (and especially from the standpoint of considering the circumstances surrounding it):-
Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya: ANALYSIS
06 April 2006 11:59
A story is told about how, in the early 1990s, a recently released African National Congress leader addressing a crowd at a Durban township was laughed at and teased. It was not out of disrespect. “He sounded like Inkatha,” was the explanation for the banter.
Decoded, sounding like Inkatha meant that his Zulu betrayed his rural upbringing and probable revisionist tendencies.
This week, the second-most-senior ANC leader, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, cast the potential ignominy of “sounding like Inkatha” aside to deliver his testimony in Zulu. It was the type of language that would have had him laughed at by the KwaMashu youth.
Having being declared by his foes according to the disputed hoax e-mails to be “the Zulu boy”, but embraced by his supporters as “100% Zuluboy”, Zuma has gone back to his KwaNxamalala village roots.
Language was not to be Zuma’s only weapon in the Johannesburg High Court, where he is fighting charges that he raped a 31-year-old family friend. He invoked the culture and spoke in an idiom that would make language activists proud.
He told Judge Willem van der Merwe that the very charge of rape was a result of having acted in accordance with what he had been taught as a youngster growing up in Nkandla, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma, who has denied the rape charge, saying the sex was consensual, this week told the court that he had been taught that “leaving a woman in that state [of sexual arousal]” was the worst thing a man could do.
“She could even have you arrested and charged with rape.” It has proven to be one lesson he might have to revisit because he was charged with rape regardless of having taken the “precaution”.
Zuma doggedly stuck to his version of events despite being on the witness stand for four days. He insisted that the sex had happened in his bedroom and not, as per his accuser’s version, in the guest bedroom.
Unlike his accuser, who appeared to crack under cross-examination, Zuma remained collected and affable throughout.
Zuma’s Zulu at times had the court interpreter finding himself having to be corrected for having missed the nuance or the correct meaning of a word. Addressing the judge as ’nkos’-yenkantolo (king of the court), Zuma waited for even the most mundane English phrases to be translated into isiZulu before responding.
By the time the state had finished its cross-examination on Thursday, Zuma had done his bit for the language of his ancestors.
He referred to his accuser’s private parts as isibhaya sika bab’wakhe — her father’s kraal. And admitted to entering this kraal without ijazi ka mkhwenyana — the groom/husband’s coat, known to non-Zulu speakers as a condom.
Asked by a doubtful prosecutor, Charin de Beer, how he could have wanted to pay lobola for a woman with whom he did not have a love relationship, Zuma again invoked isiZulu.
“There are times in isiZulu culture that you could pay lobola for a woman you have never seen even ka Madala ejudeni [at Madala, the Jew’s corner shop],” he said, using a Zulu phrase to emphasise never having laid eyes on a person before.
Zuma’s daughter, Duduzile, took the stand on Thursday and testified in English, mentioning that her father normally conversed with her in English.
She told the court that she had been suspicious of Zuma’s accuser from the onset. “Woman’s intuition,” she gave as the reason for her uneasiness.
She said that when her father introduced the complainant as an old comrade’s daughter, she knew that the complainant was at the Zuma home “to sponge off my dad. Old comrades’ children are always looking for help,” she said.
Duduzile added that she suspected that the complainant was out to “seduce” her father.
Under cross-examination, she said she did not warn her father of her suspicions because in Zulu culture, it was not the done thing to discuss sex-related matters with one’s parents.
Duduzile told the court that the complainant was “practically half naked” when she went to Zuma’s study. This, though the complainant wore a sarong covering her breasts and knees.
“I thought it was inappropriate for her to dress like that when she was a guest at someone else’s house,” she said.
The trial continues, with Zuma, his family and supporters hoping that Duduzile’s sentiments on hearing of the rape charges — “I thought it is another hurdle we need to go over” — are correct.
ZUMA CULTURE, NOT ZULU CULTURE
Professor Silawu Ngubane – University of KwaZulu-Natal academic: “Our culture is not written and there are no books that we can go back to for reference on such issues. JZ’s statement on Zulu culture is new to me. I’m not aware of such a thing in Zulu culture. I’m not dismissing it but, I’m just not aware of it.
“What I know is that in Zulu culture a girl must show respect and appreciation to the elders and remain obedient.”
Nomagugu Ngobese — traditional healer and cultural activist: “In Zulu culture, the complainant shouldn’t have been in Zuma’s bedroom at night. She shouldn’t have dressed as they say she was and shouldn’t have asked JZ to rub her body. Rubbing somebody’s body symbolises love and I believe that these two people enjoyed each other.
“We the Zulus are very respectful and what the complainant has done is a sign of disrespect towards older people. Firstly, she invaded Zuma’s privacy, and secondly she tarnished his character. How can she say JZ raped her? If I were Zuma I would file for rape against the complainant. We are tired of people who use other people’s names for their own malicious gains.”
Professor David Copland – University of the Witwatersrand anthropologist: “Regardless of culture, most men could have reacted as JZ did but his culture statement is of macho ideology and most Zulus are proud of it.
“People shouldn’t use culture to protect their deeds because culture varies from person to person. Someone would say this about culture while the other could say the opposite.
“As human beings we should also not do things that are offensive to others because they are culturally permitted where we come from and not seen as bad things.”
Father Joe Mdhlela — South African Council of Churches: “Our African cultures uphold respect. However, these cultures should not determine how we apply this respect.
“Culture should not be used to violate other people’s rights as it has been used in the past to degrade women.
“No matter how scantily a woman is dressed, we need to treat them with all the respect and not use culture to oppress them.
“We should make sure not to use culture to impose ourselves on others and we also need to revise culture when it becomes offensive.”
A prominent Zulu cultural activist who preferred to remain anonymous: “What Jacob Zuma and the complainant did is not Zulu culture but Zuma culture. Zulu culture tells us to respect each other and I don’t think JZ showed any respect to the complainant nor to himself. At this point Zulu culture failed but Zuma culture conquered.
“I also understand that when JZ spoke about culture in court he did it in Zulu but the reports that we get are in English. Journalists should be careful not to translate false messages to us. They should not change the context of the messages because this can give people a wrong impression about JZ.”
Dr Mathole Motshekga — advocate of the high court/cultural expert: “He is completely correct [to base his argument on culture] because South Africa interprets human rights through Europeanised views, that’s why there’s a problem.
“He is correct because our cultures play an important role of informing the society about its own cultural and moral values.
“Human rights don’t fall from heaven but are products of this world and need to be observed thoroughly.” — Additional reporting by Monako Dibetle
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