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 in a contest starting next Saturday.
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, who was 32 years younger than Mr Zuma, fled abroad and later died after a long illness, but the BBC’s Andrew Harding in Johannesburg 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.
When he acquitted Mr Zuma, the judge concluded: “The complainant was inclined to accuse men of raping her or attempting to rape her,” .
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.” BBC