Four women, the president and the protest that shook the election results ceremony

It started as a traditional Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) results announcement ceremony, but it soon became an occasion where President Jacob Zuma was overshadowed by four women who were violently removed from the event by the presidential security.

The four women stood, dressed in black, holding four placards in front of the podium as Zuma made his speech. Nobody listened to the president, but instead the crowd was drawn to the young protesters and the words on their posters.

The posters read: “I am 1 in 3”, “#”, “10 years later”, “Khanga” and “Remember Khwezi”.
The posters referred to the woman Zuma was accused of raping 10 years ago. The woman, known only as Khwezi, reportedly wore a khanga (a decorated cotton fabric that people drape around themselves) before the rape. The first poster referred to statistics which indicate one in three women are sexually abused in their lifetime.

When Zuma concluded his speech, the women were violently removed and shoved out of the ceremony to a separate VIP access area where they disappeared. Security prevented media from following what was happening in the VIP area, but the
Mail & Guardian heard the women screaming from where journalists stood just outside the area. The VIP area is not visible to people without access to enter.

When asked why the women were crying, the security refused to answer and instead told journalists to leave.

The four women left the IEC national results operation centre, where the ceremony was taking place, soon after the incident.
The Mail & Guardian saw them leave unharmed and voluntarily, though they were shaken.

The proceedings inside the IEC centre continued as normal and concluded with the audience, dignitaries and IEC officials standing to sing the national anthem.

Later, Bathabile Dlamini, the president of the ANC Women’s League, made a statement on what had transpired. Dlamini said Zuma had been found innocent of all charges and the attempt was hitched by the IEC to discredit the ANC. She also mentioned that EFF representatives had left the ceremony as Zuma stood to make his speech.

The IEC has yet to address what has happened, but the protest and the reaction to it has been a blow to the president and the ruling party, which has lost support in the elections.

The four women,  meanwhile, said they will soon release a statement on the protest and what had happened. 

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