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South African president in AIDS-sex row with provincial premier

By Adriana Stuijt     May 13, 2009 in Politics
Within just days of new South African president Jacob Zuma's inauguration, a bitter racist sex-row erupted over remarks by new Western Cape provincial premier Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance Party. Zuma allies plan crippling strike actions.
After Zille accused Zuma of 'exposing his wives to HIV by having sex with an HIV-infected woman' -- citing his own testimony from his rape trial in 2006, when he was acquitted of raping a family friend -- she is facing verbal insults from his allies, who called her 'the racist girl who appointed her all-male cabinet of useless people,... because they are all her boyfriends and concubines'.
Zuma supporters in the Cosatu trade union movement, the communist party and the youth league of the ruling African National Congress also threaten to paralyse the Western Cape 's economy with 'militant strike actions' if Ms Zille does not withdraw her remarks about Zuma within two weeks. For Zille's remarks in the Sowetan,
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Zille, a respected former journalist and also the leader of the Democratic Alliance opposition party, which gained hegemony of the Western Cape province during the elections, was referring to Zuma's own testimony in his rape trial in 2006, in which he was acquitted of raping a family friend. He admitted to having unprotected sex with his accuser, although knowing that this family friend was HIV-positive, but that he 'had showered afterwards to prevent infection'.
Zuma supporters point out that the South African president has repeatedly apologised for these remarks, and that her comments are uncalled for.
ANC rebukes Youth League
However president Zuma's party, the ANC, on Wednesday distanced itself from what it called the ANC Youth League's "deeply embarrassing" attack on Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille.
"The African National Congress distances itself from comments by an ANC Youth League spokesperson yesterday (Tuesday) about DA leader Helen Zille and her provincial Cabinet," secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said. While the ruling party strongly objected to Zille's criticism of President Jacob Zuma's sexual conduct on Tuesday that triggered a war of words, it could not tolerate the ANCYL's outburst.
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This unsavoury public row -- against the background of the country's ongoing, deadly AIDS-TB co- epidemic which has already infected more than 6-million people and killing many thousands each month -- comes less than a week after Zuma told Parliament upon his election as the country’s new president, that he hoped to ' improve relations with the opposition '- and immediately kept his promise by co-opting Afrikaner opposition leader Dr Pieter Mulder of the Freedom Front Plus party to his cabinet as deputyminister of agriculture.
The youth league's official statement to the South African Press Association said it was:
"disgusted by remarks attributed to the racist girl Helen Zille, who when failing to defend her stupid and sexist decision to appoint predominantly white males into her cabinet, attacks the President of the Republic of South Africa. (...)"Zille has appointed an all male cabinet of useless people, majority of whom are her boyfriends and concubines so that she can continue to sleep around with them, yet she claims to have the moral authority to question our President," the ANC Youth League statement, issued through the independent South African Press Association (SAPA), said.
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Militant action threatened against Zille's province:
The youth league has also threated "militant action" against the new Western Cape premier. This is no idle threat: militant trade unionist campaigns have over the past few years, closed down hospitals countrywide and paralysed traffic in South Africa".
Further threats against the new Western Cape premier are to haul her before the Equality Court: under South African employment equity laws, appointments in companies and public authorities must be made according to the proportional representation of the entire population. Under this dictate laid down under the country’s laws, some 90% of the Western Cape’s provincial representatives, (MECs) would have had to be black people, 50% should have been female and at least 1% should have been disabled.
Zuma's other allies, the co-ruling Cosatu trade union movement, has launched written complaints with the Public Protector, the Equality Court and the SA Human Rights Commission "to declare the (provincial executive) announcement in violation to the spirit of South Africa constitution".
These complaints, Cosatu said, would also form the basis of a so-called Section 77 application, allowing the labour federation to 'launch non-work-related industrial action under the Labour Relations Act," i.e. the trade union movement could force a strike in the Western Cape which could paralyse the entire region.
Zille had two weeks to respond positively, or the strike would be called, Cosatu's provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, said on Monday night.
"We are calling upon the human rights commission the Public Protector as well as the equality court to declare the announcement and the appointments in violation to the spirit of South Africa constitution. This insult to women and blacks poses a real threat to the stability of the W Cape politics, as it completely undoes the social cohesion Mandela had spent so much time fostering," Ehrenreich said in a media statement to Digital Journal.
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Zille said in response to the trade union movement's accusations that "the ANC, in all its 90 years of existence, has never elected or deployed a woman as its leader. The DA has done so within the first 10 years of its existence. Until recently, both the DA's national leader and parliamentary leader were women."
"More significantly, ANC leader Jacob Zuma is a self-confessed womaniser with deeply sexist views, who put all his wives at risk by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman. Even after this, the ANC Women's League strongly endorsed his presidential campaign.
"The ANC can therefore pretend to be serious about women's rights, while actually patronising women who want to be recognised for their ability," Zille wrote.
More about Jacob zuma, Rape trial, Hiv-aids, Helen zille, Democratic alliance
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