There is an article in today’s Business Day informing us that South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority plans to investigate historical allegations of mass rape by members of ZANU-PF during the build up tp Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections. Although Zimbabwe has not done so, South Africa has ratified the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court. As such, the NPA has been ordered by a high court here in SA to investigate what amounts to ‘crimes against humanity’.
While I applaud this courageous and therefore, undoubtedly novel, move by this country’s judiciary, I do have some difficulty understanding it. Though rape is certainly a monstrous crime, I cannot help but feel that most people would rather be raped than murdered. And yet no courts seem to want to investigate the numerous murders that took place over the same period and for the same reasons, i,e. to intimidate the opposition party. It would seem that there is more ‘glamour’ attached to rape. I imagine it has something to do with the female vote. Women are predominantly, though not exclusively, the victims of rape and as such constitute an easily identifiable group. I suppose that individual voters like to feel that their government is doing something specifically for them. There is more political capital to be gained by going after rapists rather than murderers.
Following a truly horrific rape and murder that took place here recently and which was much publicised, one paper printed the various rapes statistics from around the world (sorry, cant find the list I saw). South Africa ranked right up there at the top as one might expect from a country where crime is endemic. What was interesting was that Sweden had by far the highest per capita cases of reported rape in Europe. Of course this is largely as a result of the Swedish definition of rape which is much broader than elsewhere as Julian Assange has discovered. Sweden’s unique definition of rape is surely there to assuage the female electorate, though I think some of South Africa’s victims might be rather incensed by any comparisons between what they have suffered and what Assange’s alleged victims went through.
I totally applaud the action of South Africa’s NPA, but I do hope it will pursue allegations of murder and assault in Zimbabwe as well. I have lost any faith that SA’s judiciary will instigate investigations into the epidemic of murders that continues to traumatise white farming communities. Not many votes to be won there.