Zuma's rape accuser questioned (BBC News), 07 March 2006

The woman accusing South African ex-Deputy President Jacob Zuma of rape is being cross-examined in court.

The judge has agreed to the defence's request to admit questions about the complainant's personal history.

About 200 of Mr Zuma's supporters have gathered outside the court tearing up and burning pictures of the woman.

This follows Monday's graphic account of alleged events at Mr Zuma's home. Mr Zuma pleaded not guilty but said he had consensual sex with the woman.

Under cross-examination by the defence team in the Johannesburg High Court, the 31-year-old woman described how Mr Zuma and her father had been good friends while living in exile in the early 1980s.

Her father died in 1985. She explained the special closeness of people in the South African exile community and why it was that she regarded Jacob Zuma both as an uncle and a father figure, even though there was little contact between them for many years.

The complainant was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1999, although she did not tell Mr Zuma about this until two years later.

In 2004 he promised to help her with funding to study in the UK, but the money never materialised.

Image source

Former SA deputy president Jacob Zuma

Mr Zuma had been seen as a possible future president

She said this had been devastating and led to a deterioration in her health.

Earlier on Tuesday, the defence requested that the court admit questions concerning the woman's personal history, a request to which Judge Willem van der Merwe agreed.

On Monday, the judge ordered that the woman's identity not be made public, as the trial got under way after a three-week break.

Three judges earlier assigned to the case stood down - one of them because his sister had a child fathered by Mr Zuma.

The alleged victim testified on Monday that she was raped by Mr Zuma while visiting his home in Johannesburg's Forest Town suburb in November last year.

She also said that she had been "pressured" by various people and had been offered money to drop her accusations.

Mr Zuma - a veteran of the ANC struggle to end apartheid and a favourite of the party's left wing - was once thought a likely successor to Thabo Mbeki as South African president.

But the allegations and of rape as well as corruption - for which he will go on trial in July - are thought by many to have ended that prospect.

Mr Zuma remains deputy leader of the ruling ANC although it has been agreed that he should not perform any executive functions.

His support has waned since rape charges were laid, but he remains a popular politician.

Mr Zuma's supporters say the charges against him are the result of a conspiracy.

The trial continues. 

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