Top-secret semen

The police forensic laboratory in Pretoria that is testing DNA samples obtained from the complainant in the rape claim against African National Congress deputy president Jacob Zuma is being heavily guarded to ensure that crucial evidence is not tampered with or the results leaked.

Sources within the forensic lab said that police reinforcements have been brought in to guard the Silverton laboratory.

“Every two hours, a group of officers visits the laboratory to ensure that everything is still in place. We are not taking any chances,” said a senior official within the forensic laboratory, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Thursday, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) acknowledged receipt of a docket from police on the rape allegations against Zuma. Without identifying the alleged perpetrator by name, NPA spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi told the South African Press Association: “We can confirm receipt of a docket from the police about rape. No decision has been taken yet on that particular matter.”

The law prohibits the NPA from naming an accused before a court appearance. The authority now has to make a decision, based on the contents of the docket, about whether to prosecute.

The DNA testing of semen found on the alleged victim’s underwear has been completed. The investigating team, headed by Superintendent Peter Linda, can now look for a “male profile” that matches the sample. DNA can be obtained from a blood sample or a cheek swab, and the decision now lies with Linda whether to compel Zuma to submit a test. On Thursday, Beeld newspaper reported that Zuma’s DNA was already being tested. Michael Hulley, Zuma’s lawyer, would neither confirm nor deny the claim.

Pierre Joubert, director of the biology unit at the laboratory, downplayed the additional security, insisting that all high-profile cases require tight security.

Hulley said his client had not been handed any charges. Legally, the police are only obliged to arrest an accused before charges are issued if he/she poses a flight risk or is a danger to others.

Zuma has unequivocally denied the rape allegations against him, but he has remained mum about whether he and the complainant were in a sexual relationship.

“The matter [of whether or not Zuma and the complainant were in a sexual relationship] hasn’t been [publicly] clarified, nor am I comfortable with clarifying it because, if it is the case, it’ll go to the heart of his defence,” said Hulley.

As a public figure and former head of the Presidential Task Team on HIV/Aids and the South African National Aids Council, Zuma’s private indiscretions, if indeed he and the complainant were in a sexual relationship, are even more serious. The complainant is a prominent HIV/Aids activist who is open about her HIV-positive status.

The rape complaint suggests that unprotected sex took place between her and Zuma, whether by coercion or not. The Mail & Guardian understands, from three sources, that Zuma’s fallback position will be to admit that they were in a sexual relationship, but that it was consensual.

Four Zuma supporters from the Eastern Cape and national structures have told the M&G “there is little doubt that Zuma [and the complainant] were in a relationship”.

They expressed dismay at Zuma’s “irresponsibility” in the light of the political cloud that is hanging over his head as a result of the corruption charges against him.

Aids activist Zachie Achmat said: “The allegation of rape against the deputy president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, is a tragedy. It is tragic not only for the alleged victim, but a tragedy for our communities and the country at large. In the interest of the country, and in support of everyone who fights violence against women and children, the deputy president has a duty to clear his name if the charges are untrue.

“I call upon the ANC, the SACP and Cosatu [the Congress of South African Trade Unions] to ask the deputy president to resign all formal positions until his name is cleared as a signal to our communities that even allegations of violence against women, especially sexual violence, will be dealt with, with the seriousness they deserve. This is not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation or the charges or to state that the deputy president of the ANC is, in fact, guilty.”

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Matuma Letsoala
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Vicki Robinson
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