What happens when sins of the past come out of the closet?

  • GeoffEditorial
A long, dirty thread links the sadistic killers of anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol and South African President Jacob Zuma to sex offenders who thought they would get away with it as time passed. But people cannot control how they will be remembered in history.
by GEOFF SIFRIN | Oct 19, 2017

Over four decades ago, in 1971, Timol died in police custody after jumping or being pushed through the tenth-floor window of (then) John Vorster Square police station. It was so long ago that many young South Africans today don’t even know his name.

The policemen who tortured him have since died or are too old to recall the facts, and were never brought to book. Yet, his family, believing he was pushed through the window rather than jumped, pursued the issue tirelessly, demanding a new investigation. It was determined last week that Timol was pushed. His tormentors will be remembered as murderers, not policemen.

Zuma is widely thought to be a criminal using his position to steal from state coffers, today and in the past. He avoids prosecution by manipulating the judiciary with endless stalling tactics, hoping the incidents will fade in the public memory.

But the Supreme Court of Appeal this week leapt back time-wise, declaring he should be charged on 783 fraud and corruption counts, for his actions during the arms deal in 2002.

Charges were dropped in 2009 during his presidential election campaign, after he asserted that the timing of the charges aimed to damage his election prospects - the so-called “spy-tapes” saga.

A similar dirty thread links him to villains of another type - sex pests. His alleged rape of a 31-year-old family friend came to court in 2005. He claimed the act was “consensual”, and rallied his supporters to back him. He thought it had faded in peoples’ memory and continued with his political ambitions, but it has been resurrected in broadcaster Redi Tlhabi’s new book “Khwezi” about his rape accuser Fezekile Kuzwayo (who has since died). Chances are, Zuma will go down in history not only as a corrupt thief, but also a sex offender.

Other villains on that sexual thread include Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, and South African billionaire Sidney Frankel. They also thought the passing of time would make the grisly events fade, and they would get away free.

Weinstein was publicly accused in the last two weeks by women in the Hollywood film world, of sexual molestation over many years, exploiting his powerful position. He had such sway that giving him sex could make or break an actress’ career.

His accusers include famous actress Gwyneth Paltrow and others. Weinstein, who has resigned from the company he founded, is learning that despite time passing, old skeletons may come back to haunt.

SA Jewish billionaire Sidney Frankel sexually abused children at the Arcadia Jewish Children’s Home and other places in the 1970s and 1980s. In the many years afterwards, he thought life had moved on and he wouldn’t be fingered. But last year, eight accusers claiming he assaulted them as children, brought a civil claim against him.

He endured public disgrace, but died earlier this year before being sentenced. His name will go down as a paedophile. His case caused Johannesburg’s High Court to declare Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act unconstitutional, effectively removing the 20-year prescription bar on sexual offences.

 Other well-known sexual predators who have been exposed, include tennis star Bob Hewitt, and television’s man of clean “family values”, Bill Cosby.

Politics moves on after time with new leaders. But sexual abuse is not reparable: The abuser moves on, but victims remain traumatised.

“What goes around, comes around,” says the cliché. Sometimes the wheel does turn, and old skeletons come back to haunt. Will Zuma, in time, pay for his crimes too?

Read Geoff Sifrin’s regular columns on his blog



1 Comment

  1. 1 Gary Selikow 19 Oct
    when are we going to hear more about the ANC torturing and murdering prisoners in Quatro.Let us remember hideous concentration camps of Quatro ,of the torures that went on there of which surely Hitler and Stalin would have been proud and of the brutal Mbokodo-the ANC secret police whose deeds rivalled the worst of those at Vlakplaas. It is not a novel for the fainthearted for among the torture methods described are jumpin on the heads of suspects 'to see if they would burst'. thowing stones at the eyes of suspects standing against walls,dripping melted plastic on genitalia and open wounds,whipping to death with barbed wire,sjamboks and electric cable and burning the souls of the feet with red hot pieces of iron.


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