[Archives] Four women, the president and the protest that shook the results ceremony

It started as a traditional Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) results announcement ceremony, but it soon became an occasion where President Jacob Zuma was overshadowed by four women who were violently removed from the event by the presidential security.

The four women stood, dressed in black, holding five placards in front of the podium as Zuma made his speech. Nobody listened to the president, but instead the crowd was drawn to the young protesters and the words on their posters.

The posters read: “I am 1 in 3”, “#”, “10 years later”, “Khanga” and “Remember Khwezi”. The posters referred to the woman Zuma was accused of raping 10 years ago. The woman, known only as Khwezi, reportedly wore a khanga (a decorated cotton fabric that people drape around themselves) before the rape. The first poster referred to statistics which indicate one in three women in South Africa are sexually abused in their lifetime.

When Zuma concluded his speech, the women were violently removed and shoved out of the ceremony to a separate VIP access area where they disappeared. Security prevented media from following what was happening in the VIP area, but the Mail & Guardian heard the women screaming from where journalists stood just outside the area. The VIP area is not visible to people without access to enter.

When asked why the women were crying, the security refused to answer and instead told journalists to leave.

The four women left the IEC national results operation centre, where the ceremony was taking place, soon after the incident. The Mail & Guardian saw them leave unharmed and voluntarily, though they were shaken.

The proceedings inside the IEC centre continued as normal and concluded with the audience, dignitaries and IEC officials standing to sing the national anthem.

Later, Bathabile Dlamini, the president of the ANC Women’s League, made a statement on what had transpired. Dlamini said Zuma had been found innocent of all charges and blamed the IEC for not taking action to protect the president. The ANCWL president said that the IEC should have told the president to sit down, dealt with the protesters, and then invited Zuma back up to conclude his speech and apologised to him. 

“No head of state should be treated like this,” Dlamini read from her statement. “We demand that the chairperson of the IEC apologises to the president and it must be done with immediate effect.”

She also mentioned that EFF representatives had left the ceremony as Zuma stood to make his speech, saying the EFF had planned the protest to force Zuma to be removed as president. She noted that during the past few days no female member of the EFF had spoken on a public platform, and instead, only male members of the party had made statements. Some of the four girls have been identified as supporters of the party. 


“If they wish and think that our president is going to step down,  that is a dream,” Dlamini said. 

Dlamini, who refused to take questions from journalists, did not comment on the way the four women were treated by Zuma’s bodyguards. 

The IEC has yet to address what has happened, with the exception of the IEC deputy chairperson, Terry Tselane, apologising after Zuma had stepped down from the stage.

“This took us by surprise and we really want to apologise to all of you,” Tselane said. 

But the protest and the reaction to it has been a blow to the president and the ruling party, which has lost support in the elections. During the ceremony, the commission declared the elections free and fair, but could not provide results for the City of Johannesburg, which had only been 99% completed with the ANC leading and the DA just behind. 

The four women, meanwhile, said they will soon release a statement on the protest and what had happened. 

Speaking to eNCA, Simamkele Dlakavu, a student and one of the protesters, said that she had attended a memorial event for Khwezi organised by the One in Nine campaign, an non-government organisation that fights sexual abuse in South Africa. The event received little attention, and the women, while at the results ceremony, decided to do something. 

“It wasn’t planned, it was spontaneous. I said to my sisters: ‘how am I going to listen to this man, when a few weeks ago we were protesting this man?’,” Dlakavu said. 

The silent protest was a refusal, Dlakavu said, to be silent when rape and gender-based violence has become widespread in the country. Although Zuma was acquitted of the charges, the young protester says that an acquittal does not mean the president is innocent. 

“We refuse not to name and shame rapists. We refuse to let the country forget, because it happened,” Dlakavu said. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.
Advertising

ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Small towns not ready for level 3

Officials in Beaufort West, which is on a route that links the Cape with the rest of the country, are worried relaxed lockdown regulations mean residents are now at risk of contracting Covid-19
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday