A leading contender to replace President Jacob Zuma as head of South Africa’s governing ANC has said he believes the woman who accused Mr Zuma of rape over a decade ago was telling the truth.
Mr Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, told a local radio station: “Yes, I would believe her.”
In 2006 Mr Zuma was found not guilty of raping Fezekile Kuzwayo – the daughter of an old family friend.
He said she had agreed to have sex.
Mr Ramaphosa is competing against Mr Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to become the leader of the ANC later this month.
The winner of the party race will be well placed to become the country’s new president in 2019.
In the radio interview, Mr Ramaphosa praised Ms Kuzwayo’s courage for taking the case to court, saying:
“I know how difficult and painful it is to for a woman to garner up the courage and say ‘yes I was raped’. It must be one of the most difficult decisions she had to make.”
Ms Kuzwayo fled abroad and later died, but the BBC’s Andrew Harding says controversy surrounding the case has lingered.
Ms Kuzwayo was HIV-positive and Mr Zuma’s statement during the trial, that he showered after unprotected sex with the woman to guard against possible infection, provoked ridicule.
“The complainant was inclined to accuse men of raping her or attempting to rape her,” the judge concluded.
The president’s office has issued a statement saying: “The court acquitted the president of the rape charges.
“The presidency affirms the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the primacy of the courts as the final arbiters in disputes in society.”
The race for the ANC:
- Detained for two years for anti-apartheid activities; launched mineworkers’ union in 1982
- Headed committee that prepared for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison
- Left politics to become one of South Africa’s richest businessmen – on Lonmin board during 2012 Marikana massacre
- Became South Africa’s deputy president in 2014.
- A leading anti-apartheid activist, fled South Africa to complete medical training in UK
- Met Jacob Zuma while working as a doctor in Swaziland, divorcing him after 16 years of marriage in 1998
- Declined offer to take place of her ex-husband as deputy president in 2005 after he was sacked
- Chair of the African Union commission from 2012 to 2016.
Dlamini-Zuma bids to be South Africa’s first woman leader