“I was displaced at the age of 13,” she said, “and if it was not for many families from different racial divides who adopted me and protected me in Pietermaritzburg, I would have been killed me too.”
Her protectors included Yunus Carrim, a former minister of communications, Nalini Naidoo of The Witness newspaper in Pietermaritzburg and her husband Dennis, and Aaron Mazel and his wife Annie McDonald.
In the late 1980s, more than 2 000 people were killed in three years in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Writer Matthew Kentridge described it as “an unofficial war”.
Khoza was displaced from her family home in Harewood, 12km outside Pietermaritzburg during this “war”. Harewood was an Inkatha Freedom Party stronghold in the 1980s. The family home was destroyed by fire.
Khoza’s bravery is still evident today.
There are new challenges. The lines are blurred and those who need to be challenged are quite often former comrades.
Of her challenges, Khoza said: “I grew up with this kind of thing and it’s only somebody who doesn’t know my background who would cast aspersions on me. When I wrote my matric exams, Aaron would take off from work to drive me to Msimude High School, in Sweetwaters, Pietermaritzburg - and wait for me to finish writing.”
Her thirst for education saw her gain a PhD and a master’s degree.
Khoza has also served as the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and Finance in KwaZulu-Natal among numerous management positions she has held in the public and private sectors.
It is unfortunate, she said, that some people do not understand the sacrifices anti-apartheid activists made.
This is why, she said, she would “not allow South Africa to go down”.
“Some of us understand what it took us to get where we are.”
In Harewood, where unemployment and drug abuse is prevalent, 67-year-old Joyce Ngcobo said Khoza’s rise from a resident to a fearless public servant was God taking her from “zero to hero”.
“I remember when she was once jailed, when those standing up to apartheid were detained and silenced, she said she studied and slept in a toilet.
“We used to admire how brave she was as a young girl. She is still the same now” Ngcobo said.
She said Khoza’s stand-off with the ANC was proof that she was prepared to stand up for what she believed in.
Khoza’s stance on urging the National Assembly to allow MPs to vote in the motion of no confidence through a secret ballot has led to her being condemned by fellow party members.
Her series of Facebook posts on the "moral decline" of her party angered the ANC Youth League, who threatened to march to her home this year. Even ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu accused her of “extreme ill-discipline”.
In one of her recent posts, Khoza wrote: “I’m still wondering why the deputy president, secretary general and treasurer general distanced themselves from the decision of the president’s reshuffling publicly? Were they charged for ill-discipline? No. So why me?”
Pointing to the death threats levelled against her and her daughter, Khoza said it would be easy to throw in the towel. “But not me.”
With her 25 year-old daughter already the subject of threats on her life, Khoza said they were now trying to cushion her son Mlando, 20, and said he would be devastated if anything happened to her.
Khoza’s husband, Ntela Sikhosana, Mlando’s father, died from suspected food poisoning in August 1998, leaving Khoza with a then 6-year-old daughter and a then 9-month-old Mlando to bring up on her own.
“So I am trying to protect him myself and reassure him,” Khoza said of her son.
Weekend Argus Sunday