Zweli Mkhize, the ANC's treasurer-general Photo: ANA

Johannesburg - ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize on Sunday said the publication of a book on the life of the woman who accused President Jacob Zuma of rape had compelled him to reveal what he knew about the incident.

In a startling statement, Mkhize said he  felt it was necessary to speak out for the first time about how Zuma had in 2005 revealed to him that he had had sexual intercourse with Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, a daughter of their late comrade.

“I must at the outset express my discomfort and reservations to publicly talk about this matter. I have over the years avoided doing so because of my appreciation of Fezeka’s right to privacy and human dignity. I also believe that like any woman, she was entitled to justice, fairness and equality.”

Mkhize was the MEC for economic development in KZN when told Zuma him about the incident. On Sunday he issued a seven-page long statement in reaction to City Press questions on whether he had tried to convince Kuzwayo to drop the charges against Zuma.

The paper had on Sunday reported about the content of a book Khwezi: The remarkable story of Fezekile Ntsukela Khuzwayo authored by veteran radio journalist Redi Tlhabi and expected to be launched soon.

According to the City Press, the book revealed that prior to and during the rape trial, Kuzwayo, whose late father, Judson Kuzwayo, was Zuma and Mkhize’s close friend in exile during the liberation struggle, had faced constant intimidation at the hands of Zuma’s supporters, which led her to leave the country.

Kuzwayo died last year.

Reacting to the allegations, Mkhize denied persuading Kuzwayo to drop the rape charges. He said he had taken a stance that he had not been prepared to talk about the case, but he decided to open up following the book and the City Press story implicating him. 

Mkhize said he elected not to deal with the media at the time of the trial as he understood the matter was sub-judice.

“I had to allow for the legal processes to unfold and co-operate with any formal investigation if and when required to do so,” Mkhize said in his statement.

He said in 2005 he received a call from Zuma telling him that “he had made a terrible mistake of having sexual relations with Fezeka”.

“I was shocked by this because I had always been under the impression that Fezeka was like a daughter to both of us,” he said.

Mkhize said Zuma had told him that he and Kuzwayo were in an intimate relationship “that had built up over a period between them”.

“In fact, he indicated that they had been conversing for a while,” he said.

But he said he would never have expected Zuma to have an intimate relationship with someone they both regarded as a daughter.  

He said after Zuma had informed him that Kuzwayo had intended to lay criminal charges, he asked Zuma why this was the case if the sex had been consensual.

“He (Zuma) said he himself wasn't sure what could have upset her as he was under the impression that all was well between them.

“He said Fezeka had not raised any issues or complaint with him. He appeared to be puzzled about what had gone wrong between them,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize said after listening to Zuma, he made contact with Kuzwayo’s mother Beauty in Durban.

"Based on the relationship I had with the Khuzwayo family and President Zuma who has always been like a big brother to me, I decided to take the initiative to engage with Fezeka's mother. The main reason for this engagement was for me to share what I had been told by President Zuma, find out what she understood to be the issue and whether she knew if President Zuma and Fezeka had established an intimate relationship.

"At that meeting she also expressed her surprise as she had been told that Fezeka had laid a rape charge against President Zuma. As we continued to engage on this matter, it became apparent that both Sis Beauty and I were not sure of the exact version and turn of events. We were both also unaware of the alleged relationship that had developed between President Zuma and Fezeka.

"Sis Beauty was visibly distressed and asked me what I thought could be done to deal with this matter. My advice was that we needed to know Fezeka's version of events."

A day or so later Mhize's says he met Beauty again and they called Fezeka on the phone, who he described as "highly emotional".

"She told me that she was raped."

Mhize says he then arranged for her to travel to Johannesburg to be with her daughter and requested friends to refer him to a Johannesburg-based lawyer who would assist them.

"There was no relationship whatsoever between myself and Mr (Yusuf) Docrat before I contacted him telephonically regarding this matter ... At no point was the lawyer instructed to advise Fezeka to drop the charges," Mkhize said.

He said that after the police became involved and he was interviewed by Richard Mdluli,  "it became clear to me that given the seriousness, sensitivity and prominence this matter was gaining I needed to allow for the legal process to unfold and only attend to Sis Beauty and Fezeka if they made contact with me in order to avoid being seen to be interfering".

Mkhize continues: "It is a pity that in all this, I never got a chance to personally engage with Fezeka to share the background on how I got involved which was ostensibly to give support as part of the family. In all that I did it was never my intention to let her down. I also did not in any way undermine her right to pursue any legal recourse in this case. 

"It was painful to witness public humiliation and ridicule of a child who was like a daughter to me and yet at that stage, because of legal process, I could not lend any support to her and her mother."

When contacted about the allegations, Zuma’s spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga said: “The matter was dealt with in court in an open trial. There is therefore nothing new to add.”

READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW:

Political Bureau