Redi Tlhabi
Johannesburg - “Fezekile’s humanity was her strength but in a world that is masculine, hostile and judgemental, it endangered her.” This is according to Redi Tlhabi in discussions about her new book, Khwezi: The Remarkable Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, officially released this week.

The book is an account of President Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser, Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, known as Khwezi. In September 2006, Zuma stood trial for the alleged rape of Khwezi but he was found not guilty and acquitted. Khwezi died last October, after a long struggle with HIV/Aids.

Tlhabi said the book is about reflections on power relations, adding that Khwezi was traumatised as a child. “You will see that I’ve deliberately analysed the childhood cases. I’ve left the adult cases because one could easily argue that I was not there and I didn’t know if she may have consented. I left it out because I did not want to open the book up to an assumption and this superficial analysis.

“I’ve dealt only with the childhood rapes because these were dealt with in court, with the judge concluding that they most likely didn’t happen. But there was not even a dispute about whether something had happened between her and those uncles. That was never the debate. And the men were punished for having sex with a minor,” said Tlhabi.

She added that when four women staged a silent protest during President Jacob Zuma’s address at the Independent Electoral Commission results centre (IEC) in Tshwane last year, Khwezi was freaked out that her name had been used.

“She appreciated the solidarity in the protest, but she was freaked out. So I’m saying her fear was palpable and I had taken it for granted when she said, ‘I’m ready to come out.’ But it also shows that sometimes restoration happens but it’s not a permanent position; we relapse. Because, quite frankly, sexual violence in South Africa and toxic masculinity and power bring me to my knees. So it ends on restoration, because that’s how we started. It was a work in progress,” she added.

Tlhabi said everyone has questions to ask, as we are all part of a society that contributes to the looming crisis of rape. She reckons that while the aim of the law is to restore justice, it is a frightening realisation for women to know that the law may not always be there to protect us.

“We do have a position that the law is sacrosanct and we need it because of all the injustices; the aim of the law is to restore justice but can we really sit back and relax, knowing that we have the law to protect us?

“I don’t think we always have the law to protect us and it’s a very frightening realisation for women living in this violent society, ” she added.

The Sunday Independent