Mission to end conspiracy of silence
Johannesburg - Andisiwe “Andy” Kawa is a mother and successful businesswoman. She articulates her thoughts carefully and 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 dreams.
Kawa is also a rape survivor, a woman who endured a 15-hour rape ordeal that changed her for ever.
But instead of her case disappearing in the “conspiracy of silence” around sexual violence, she has ensured that her story – and message – will be heard in nearly every town, from Pofadder to Port Shepstone, from Kokstad to Kathlehong.
She and singer-songwriter Natalie Chapman have 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 like herself.
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.
“Transformation has to start in the smallest places, our homes, schools, 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, after an event that many might have found difficult if not impossible to move on from.
December 9, 2010 was a hot 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 on the edge of the beach.
The man blindfolded and raped her, but she soon became aware there were other men with him.
They took turns to rape her through the night. 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 Joburg that evening – had been stolen.
Kawa was medically examined and started an antiretroviral programme to prevent her from contracting HIV. In the weeks that followed, she had trauma counselling sessions. “My dreams were filled with people I knew who had died. It took me another year before I could go back to Port Elizabeth (where she was born and raised) and back to that spot.
“It was then that I realised that I was grateful to be alive, to have life.”
Disillusioned by the apathy of the police in dealing with her case, Kawa was motivated to bring the issue of rape centre stage publicly, and in December 2012 she founded Kwanele-Enuf.
“My case was never properly investigated. There is a lack of will to the point of negligence. 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 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 as 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.
Upset but even more determined to expose what she considered a miscarriage of justice, not only in her case but millions of similar cases, Kawa filed a complaint in December against the Ministry of Police for the police investigators’ alleged negligence and to bring attention to “this collusion of mediocrity”.
While the justice system may fail to deliver results, Kawa says society needs to acknowledge the disease of gender-based violence, “similar to someone facing the fact of their alcoholism”.
“It is something we have allowed, but which we don’t admit. The first step to rooting it out is to accept it is a reality, then speaking out about it. Once we acknowledge it, we can rise up against it.”
Kawa says 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 of sexual abuse within her family. She and her siblings had been molested by her brother, uncle, father and grandfather. Yet the women in the family – mother, auntie or grandmother – are aware, they say nothing and the family continue to regard these men with respect.
“This scenario is common, and it extends to neighbours and the wider community… everyone is turning a blind eye. It means there are many women in pain, carrying around festering emotional and psychological wounds that are never addressed.”
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 Maths 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’ll have to take some time out of the “90 Days 90 Towns 90 Gigs” tour to attend a mining conference in Cape Town.
Her schedule until April is gruelling, but this is a woman on a mission. She and Chapman will undoubtedly make a huge impact on the communities they visit.
“I want to hear people’s stories. I want their families and communities to hear those stories.
“This journey will be like a truth and reconciliation commission,” says Kawa.
As I leave Kawa, I have the impression they are going to be rocking South Africa. - Pretoria News
* 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 informative about the initiative.