Politicians and sex scandals
DENY. Apologise. Get promoted! That seems to be the trend when politicians are caught with their pants down in sex scandals in South Africa. Last week, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is vying for the position of president of the ANC and the country, was the latest high-profile politician to have his sex life thrust into the spotlight. It was reported last week that Ramaphosa was allegedly linked to eight women in apparent extra-marital affairs. Some allegedly exchanged erotic pictures and videos. Ramaphosa, it was alleged, also finances the lifestyles of some of them. But will these sexual revelations dent or boost the deputy president’s election campaign? History shows he would not be the first to take up a position of leadership in a political party or as part of government, with the ANC, DA and IFP all having promoted politicians despite their sex scandals. Ramaphosa has admitted to just one affair which he said happened about a decade ago. He has not yet apologised. Here is a reminder of how previous politicians’ “sexcapades” did nothing to harm their ambitions.
In 2005 Zuma, then deputy president of the party and the country, was facing a rape charge from “Khwezi”, who died this year. Her real name, Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, which was revealed after her death. But in 2006 Judge Willem van der Merwe, of the Johannesburg High Court, found that Zuma and Khwezi had consensual sex. He was acquitted of rape. Many at the time thought it was the end of Zuma’s political career. Instead, he was elected ANC president in 2007, unseating Thabo Mbeki. SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and then-ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe, all backed Zuma at that time but have since become his critics. Zuma never denied having sexual relations with Khwezi and admitted taking a shower after having sex with her without a condom, despite knowing her status. He apologised in 2006, and got promoted to Number One. Then, in 2010 Zuma, a proud polygamist with three wives at the time, was found to have cheated and fathered a child with soccer boss Irvin Khoza’s daughter, Sonono. He later apologised to the ANC, the tripartite alliance and South Africans.
A year after Malusi Gigaba tied the knot with wife Noma in 2014, his alleged mistress, fashionista Buhle Mkhize, blew the lid on their alleged affair. Many grabbed their pens to write Gigaba’s political obituary. He survived. From being Minister of Home Affairs, he was appointed Minister of Finance. Noma and Buhle have over the years traded insults on social media and dragged in the minister’s name. This did not shake Gigaba and his wife, at least not on social media, where they continue to share pictures together. Gigaba has denied the affair and though he has never apologised, he holds the most important portfolio in cabinet.
“I apologise to South African society, the ANC and the South African government.” This was then Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s reaction after his affair with Joyce Molamu from North West was exposed.
It was reported at the time that Mbalula, a married father of two, had sex with Molamu after a function in Houghton in Johannesburg in 2011. Initially he denied the allegations. He eventually admitted he had sex with the woman and apologised. Mbalula got his “promotion” to the Police Ministry this year when Zuma reshuffled his cabinet. He had been at the Sports Ministry for seven years.
Narend Singh was forced to resign as KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Arts, Culture and Tourism after a DVD showing him and a Durban woman having sex surfaced in 2006.
He initially denied it, saying: “It could be my face put on anyone else’s body”.
Soon after, he apologised to his family and his party and resigned. Like Ramaphosa, he described the scandal as a “smear campaign”.
When the scandal blew over, few envisaged his stunning political comeback. Singh got promoted and became the chief whip of the IFP in Parliament in 2014.
Another chief whip in Parliament, John Steenhuisen of the DA, was caught in an affair in 2010.
Steenhuisen, who was the DA leader in KZN and leader for the DA in the provincial legislature, resigned when allegations surfaced that he had an affair with former party spokesperson Terry Kass-Beaumont.
Both Steenhuisen and Terry, who are now married, were married to other people at the time.
Steenhuisen did not deny the allegations. He resigned and was swiftly moved to Parliament – a promotion – before he was promoted again in 2014, appointed chief whip of the official opposition.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe was a laughing stock on social media after he asked a 29-year-old photographer at his office to send him pictures of her private parts.
He wrote: “C.l.i.t is requested”. The raunchy texts were exposed and published in the press. Radebe swiftly apologised. When he officially threw his hat in the ring in the ANC succession race, some quipped “v.o.t.e.s requested”.
A position in the top six would be a promotion for him.
He is currently a member of the ANC’s NEC, the highest decision-making body.
Among the comrades he is racing against for the top job are the former chairperson of the AU commission, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Baleka Mbete, Lindiwe Sisulu, Mathews Phosa and Ramaphosa.