Questions of Cultural Sensitivity

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2006 at 10:11 pm

Ex-Deputy President of S. Africa Acquitted of Rape

Also – a great vignette from the Christian Science Monitor:

Christian Science Monitor Blog | Notebook: Africa Archive May, 2006

I have been half-following this story for a while, mostly through articles in The Economist. While I don’t know all the details of the case, it brings to my mind in particular questions about cultural sensitivity. Specifically – how does the international community react to this, or anything else which on the surface looks onerous… but where there is still the possibility that what happenned is perfectly accepted in that country and by that country’s culture?

This Jacob Zuma case seems similar in many ways to the Kobe Bryant rape trial a couple of years ago, or even the recent Michael Jackson court battles. Someone with tons of financial resources and lots of seemingly irrational, unconditional support going against someone from the near opposite of the spectrum. Our judicial system is set up to give everyone a fair trial, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that the results are just.

My point is that we must be careful to judge what goes on in a totally foreign country – sometimes we as Americans or as foreigners are missing pieces of the cultural puzzle, preventing us from feeling satisfied about the outcome of various global events such as the Zuma trial. I’m not saying he didn’t rape someone, or that he would or wouldn’t be suitable to lead South Africa after Thabo Mbeki.

What I’m saying is that maybe we, as people interested in international politics (or my family and friends who are paying attention to this blog!) should be paying attention to is the fact that South Africa is a very complicated country with strong ethnopolitical rifts that are still not yet healed, after more than 10 years of true democracy.

  1. Hey Scott!!! Its Katie from DPMI!!! Thanks for sharing your blog with me. How is the family?? I hope all is well, and I appreciate your efforts to keep us all connected and informed!Cheers and look me up at:kklemsen.blogspot.comKatie Klemsen


  2. Hey Scott. Monika here, also from DPMI. In response to the Zuma trial, I’m currently living in Pretoria, South Africa and I must say that the trial is all that anyone here is talking about. Funny enough, I was away when the verdict was announced and on Monday evening on my way back to Pretoria I stopped at a small rural town for dinner and asked the waitress what the verdict was… Her first words in response to Zuma, and I quote, were “that f***ing liar!” I was just glad to see that his support is not quite as widespread as it might be otherwise perceived. In any case, some of the messages he conveyed throughout the trial were absolutely absurd and very negative towards women. And now the accuser has to go into hiding overseas because of the number of death threats she’s receiving! What kind of message is that to women who may want to take their rapists to trial in the future?! In any case, the implications of this trial are quite devastating…Enough ranting about that! Glad to see that all is well with you. Take care of yourself and keep in touch! All my best,Monika


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