Lifestyle / 5 February 2014, 09:00am / HELEN GRANGE
Andisiwe “Andy” Kawa is a mother and a successful businesswoman. She leaves a strong impression of a woman who knows who she is, is in control of her life and applies her well-educated mind to her work and her dreams.
Kawa is also a rape survivor, a woman who endured a 15-hour rape ordeal.
But instead of her case disappearing in the “conspiracy of silence” around sexual violence, she has ensured that her story – and her message – will be heard in nearly every town, from Pofadder to Port Shepstone, from Kokstad to Kathlehong.
Last Thursday, she and singer-songwriter Natalie Chapman embarked on an epic journey across the country.
Chapman will perform 90 gigs in 90 days, each one in a different town, and Kawa will give talks to raise awareness of sexual violence, giving a voice to millions of victims of sexual crime.
The journey will end on April 29 and will be documented through online streaming, filming, newspapers and social networking.
“Rape and sexual abuse run deep in the social fabric,” says Kawa, founder of Kwanele-Enuf, her one-woman campaign against sexual abuse and violence.
“The work of transformation has to start in the smallest places, our homes, our schools, our communities. Ordinary citizens have to do this work. They have to stop the conspiracy of silence that shrouds this terrible pandemic.”
Hers is a heart-wrenching story of courage and healing.
December 9, 2010, was a hot, sunny day and Kawa was taking a walk on Kings Beach in Port Elizabeth when a man abducted her at knifepoint and walked her towards a bushy area.
The man blindfolded her and raped her, but she soon became aware there were other men with him. They took turns to rape Kawa. It later turned out there were five rapists.
“Two were father and son. They were all on drugs, I think. I was praying for my life and bargaining with them at the same time, giving them the impression I was acquiescing,” she recalls.
By 6am, 15 hours later, she was allowed to leave, and went straight to the police station. To make matters worse, her car, parked near the beach, had been broken into and her luggage – she had been booked to fly back to Johannesburg that evening – had been stolen.
Kawa was examined and started an antiretroviral programme to prevent her from contracting HIV. In the weeks that followed, she had numerous trauma counselling sessions.
Disillusioned by the apathy of the police in dealing with her case, Kawa was motivated to bring the issue of rape to centre stage publicly, and in December 2012 she founded Kwanele-Enuf.
“My case was never properly investigated. Remember, many of these police officers come from homes and communities that conspire to silence rape, accepting it as almost normal.
“I started doing my own investigations and now I believe I know who the perpetrators are.”
It was during one of her first marches against the abuse of women, in Port Elizabeth in early December 2012, that Kawa says she spotted two of her attackers loitering near Kings Beach.
The two, a father and son, were arrested, and the older man was found with property allegedly stolen from Kawa’s vehicle. But a week later, the two were released because DNA evidence failed to link them to the rape.
“The police only looked at the DNA. When men are on drugs, they fail to ejaculate.”
The circumstantial evidence and Kawa’s testimony were ignored.
Kawa filed a complaint in December against the Ministry of Police for the police investigators’ alleged negligence.
While the justice system may fail to deliver results, Kawa makes the point that society needs to acknowledge the disease of gender-based violence.
Kawa says that the many stories that victims have told her bear testimony to this “acceptance” of rape and violence against women.
“One lady told me her story. She and her siblings had been molested by her brother, her uncle, her father and her grandfather. Yet you find that the women in the family – the mother, aunty or grandmother – are aware, but they say nothing, and the family continue to regard these men with respect.
“This scenario is very common, and it extends to neighbours and the wider community… everyone is turning a blind eye.”
Kawa the activist also wears several hats in the corporate world. An achiever with a slew of qualifications – an MBA in finance from the Wharton School of Business (US), an EdM from Columbia University (US) and a BSc in Applied Mathematics from the University of Transkei – she is chairwoman and founding member of Chuma Holdings, a women-led investment company with interests in platinum mining.
She is also chairwoman of Interwaste Holdings and serves on the boards of Anglovaal Industries, Aquarius Platinum and Imara Capital South Africa. And as a trustee of the Chuma Foundation, the beneficiaries of which are youth development projects, she provides mentorship to six young people.
Her work means she will have to take some time out of the “90 Days 90 Towns 90 Gigs” tour to attend a mining conference in Cape Town.
l Andy Kawa and Nathalie Chapman will be visiting towns in KwaZulu-Natal from March 21 to 31. Follow the tour on Facebook www.facebook.com/ nataliechapmanfanpage and Twitter @chapmannatalie or www.nataliechapman.com
Also visit www.kwanele-enuf.co.za or follow @Kwanele-Enuf for information about the initiative.