Retraction of rape claim doesn't mean act didn't happen

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo

The woman who accused ANC head of presidency Zizi Kodwa of raping her at a private function in April last year has withdrawn her complaint.
In the letter, the complainant writes "after a long time of reflection since I submitted my complaint to your office, I have come to the conclusion to immediately withdraw the complaint.
"My letter, which was subsequently leaked to the media, has caused immeasurable damage to me, my family and no doubt to Mr Kodwa."
The complainant goes on to say, "I unfortunately found myself and the letter I wrote to you being used in ANC fights which I have nothing to do with."
I took a step back and thought deeply about the withdrawal of this complaint. At face value, I think many of us want to assume that these claims were false, however, the retraction of a complaint does not falsify or nullify the possibility that the rape did indeed happen.
The temptation is to demonise the victim, call her by names and put her in the dock. We as a society have to reflect and wonder if this was handled appropriately and not leaked to the media, could she have possibly continued with the complaint?
I do not know, I do not want to be presumptuous because I do not know what she is going through.
However, I can say that I am not surprised to see a woman choosing to drop the complaint instead of pursuing it.
The complainant states that the leaking of her complaint has caused her and her family immeasurable damage.
I could not help but think of Fezekile Kuzwayo who faced death threats, and had crowds outside court baying for her blood. The persecution she faced led to her being exiled.
This time not due to apartheid, but due to her choosing to pursue justice - the irony. I cannot help but argue that our silence during her trial makes us complicit.
Interestingly, Kodwa was part of the ANC Youth League that was vociferous and vicious in the attacking of Kuzwayo, protesting the innocence of the then deputy president of the ANC, Jacob Zuma.
I also could not help but think of Cheryl Zondi, who went through secondary trauma during the cross-examination by pastor Timothy Omotoso's lawyer, Peter Daubermann.
Zondi was asked by the defence lawyer how many centimetres of Omotoso's penis had penetrated her, why she didn't scream and why she didn't tell her mom. In the court of law, she as the victim was asked why she didn't do anything about her sexual assault.
The legal process is daunting, vicious and often re-traumatises the victim. This often happens with most publicised rape cases.
The victims are ostracised, their sexual history is paraded for the whole nation as if it warrants for them to be raped.
You never hear of a man's sexual history being paraded for public scrutiny because, as society, we do not find it problematic for a man to have a long list of sexual partners - it is normal, accepted and considered as some badge of honour.
I am not shocked that the complainant chose to retract her complaint because society has shown never to be kind to rape victims.
I do not condone false accusations being pitted against anyone to fight political battles.
I am also not saying he is guilty, but I am saying you and I need to think deeply before we take the retraction of the complaint as an admission that the rape did not happen.
If indeed Kodwa is innocent, the actions of falsely accusing him are shameful and distasteful as the person such claims are made against suffers greatly because the accusations will follow them for the rest of their lives.

This article is free to read if you register or sign in.

If you have already registered or subscribed, please sign in to continue.

Questions or problems? Email or call 0860 52 52 00.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.