/ 30 January 2008

No ‘peaceful protest’ at Tyson dinner

An organisation formed by women’s rights activists in response to Jacob Zuma’s rape trial has been denied an opportunity to hold a “peaceful protest” outside the Emperors Palace casino complex in Gauteng where visiting boxing champion Mike Tyson is to attend a charity fund-raising event.

Tyson is in South Africa to help raise funds for a children’s charity at a gala banquet on Wednesday evening at the casino. African National Congress (ANC) president Zuma will be the keynote speaker.

The One in Nine Campaign, an NGO, applied for permission to stage a demonstration at Emperors Palace. However, it was informed by Ekurhuleni metropolitan police at the nearby OR Tambo International Airport that Emperors Palace is a national key point, where public gatherings are prohibited.

One in Nine said in a statement on Wednesday that it wanted to hold this protest as a show of concern about “the distasteful pairing of Zuma and Tyson” in a country with such a high level of violence against women.

“Mr Tyson has a poor track record and well-articulated disrespect for human rights in general and women’s rights in particular. He has proved less than ideal as a role model in either his sporting or personal life,” the organisation said, adding that Zuma also has done little to tone down the fears of women and women’s rights organisations about issues concerning them in South Africa.

“His statements prior to, during and post [his] rape trial reveal his patriarchal beliefs on men and women’s roles and rights in South Africa, and in his various statements since being elected as the president of the ANC, he has not addressed what a Zuma leadership presidency means for women’s rights in South Africa,” it said.

Tyson, on his arrival at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday, told the press that he had changed his ways. He said: “I am my own worst enemy in anything I ever did.”

The former heavyweight boxing champion served three years in an Indiana prison following his 1992 rape conviction. In 1999, he was sentenced to jail for assaulting two people following a traffic accident, and in 2006 he was arrested for possession of drugs.

One in Nine feels that although Tyson has served his sentence for his 1992 rape conviction, the fact that he was “as recently as November found to be driving under the influence of illegal substances begs the question: What do we expect from our role models and leadership?”

During a meeting with Peermont, Emperors Palace’s holding company, the casino guaranteed an acknowledgement and denouncement of violence against women by Tyson during his address, as well as an inclusion of material from the One in Nine Campaign raising concerns over violence against women in South Africa. The One in Nine Campaign was, however, still not granted permission to protest.

“The One in Nine Campaign is deeply disappointed by the denial of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and peaceful public assembly,” it said.