Former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma testified Tuesday at his rape trial that his accuser led him to believe she wanted sex by lamenting she had no boyfriend and wearing a skirt when she visited his house.
Zuma, who used to head South Africa’s National AIDS Council, claims he had consensual sex with the woman, an HIV-positive AIDS activist. On Tuesday, he said for the first time that he was not infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS and he saw little risk in having unprotected sex with the woman.
Under cross examination from the prosecution, Zuma, 63, said he did not use a condom when he had sex with his 31-year-old accuser because he believed the risk of a man being infected by a woman is statistically lower than a woman picking up the virus from a man.
“I knew that the risk I was taking was not a great risk,” Zuma replied when asked why he did not behave more responsibly.
AIDS activists fear Zuma’s behavior may set a bad example in a country that has the highest number of people with HIV in the world and where men often have multiple partners and are notoriously reluctant to use condoms.
Claim that clothing was suggestive
The woman, a longtime family friend who referred to Zuma as uncle, has accused him of raping her at his home Nov. 2 when she came over for dinner and stayed overnight as a guest at his home.
Zuma denies the charges and says it is part of a political plot to destroy his ambition of becoming South African president when Thabo Mbeki steps down in 2009.
On his second day of testimony, Zuma repeatedly insisted the woman encouraged his sexual advances by using terms such as “love” and “kisses” in cell phone text messages, as well as telling him that she was lonely and had no boyfriend.
He told the court that her appearance also played a role.
“Normally when she came to visit she would be wearing (pants). But on the day in question, she was wearing a skirt and her legs were exposed,” he said. “That gave me an indication that she was expecting me to be of some assistance to her.”
Accuser - an AIDS activist
The woman told the court last month that she would never agree to unprotected sex — and had not done so for the past decade. She cited the fact that they did not use a condom as proof that Zuma raped her. She also said she is a lesbian, prosecutors said, partly because of the trauma of being raped repeatedly as a child.
“I put it to you that she was not interested in you because, number one, you were a father figure, and because of her lesbian orientation,” prosecutor Charin de Beer said.
Zuma, looking less comfortable than he did Monday and fidgeting in his chair, disagreed. He said he was unaware she was a lesbian and that she had initiated the physical contact.
“She was the one who was encouraging me,” he told the court. When he hesitated because he did not have a condom, he said she told him: “A woman cannot be left at that stage when she is already prepared for sex.”
Zuma told the court he had tested negative for HIV last month.
Zuma refutes all accusations
The prosecutor suggested Zuma was the one who invited the woman to his home that night and encouraged her to spend the night. But Zuma maintained she requested it, saying she had something to discuss with him.
The matter did not come up during dinner with his son, daughter and another family friend, or later when the two were alone in the living room, Zuma said. So he retired to his study to work. She went to bed, but told him to wake her up when he was finished, he said.
He subsequently went to the guest room and woke her, and she then followed him to his bedroom, where Zuma maintained they had consensual sex.
The woman testified the sexual intercourse was in the guest room. She said she was so shocked by Zuma’s advances that she froze and did not try to resist — behavior one psychologist said was consistent with rape victims in shock. But Zuma discounted this.
On Tuesday, Zuma denied claims by the prosecution that he abused his position of power over the woman, who had known him since she was a child in exile during the apartheid era. He also tried to refute the prosecution’s arguments that she had confided in him because she saw him as a father figure.