Singer Jennifer Ferguson, who last week laid rape charges against Safa boss Danny Jordaan, is using her voice to help women tell their stories. Picture: Suzy Bernstein
Over the past couple of months, the name Jennifer Ferguson has become synonymous with an alleged rape ordeal that features an equally prominent figure in politics, Danny Jordaan, as the perpetrator. But she’s more than that. She’s a musician, an activist and a former MP. And now she’s using her ordeal to make a positive change around her.

On her ongoing battle with former Safa boss Jordaan, she says she is geared up and battle ready. This proven by her decision to formally press rape charges against Jordaan last weekend. She acknowledged, after making the announcement, that she would have preferred a reconciliatory route - but she’s been met with coldness.

Ferguson said, speaking on Radio 702, there would be other women coming forward to share their stories.

The singer says her campaign, #WeToo, was inspired by the #MeToo movement, and seeks to go beyond the personal, bringing in a network of women and coming up with ways to better deal with the culture of sexual harassment and assault.

Recalling the state she found herself in after the initial disclosure in October last year, Ferguson said she felt at peace that she had done it.

“The first feelings I had on the days following the disclosure were a sense of great peace and liberation. I felt free. I felt aligned with my authority. I stepped off, took a leap into a place that was filled with fear and shame-bound, was secretive and not integrated into my life. It was a denied part of my being. I’m sorry to other women because of my silence, if it has caused them pain or unnecessary suffering.

“My silence, where I wasn’t able to speak up then, has meant there has been a perpetuation of it. More than him, it’s been what has been happening because I kept quiet. That’s the thing I’ve had to acknowledge, that I chose the path of convenience of silence because speaking out is inconvenient,” she said.

At the moment, Ferguson is busy putting together her concert that will take place from April 4 to 7 at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. The performance will be by Ferguson, FreshlyGround’s Zolani Mahola and Tina Schouw.

They will be supported by a choir from Khayelitsha and Ferguson’s family. Her husband, Anders Nyberg, is the musical director, composer and conductor while their children, Gabriel and Johanna, will perform alongside her.

Jennifer Ferguson and husband Anders Nyberg. Picture: Suzy Bernstein

With regards to picking Mahola and Schouw to work with her, Ferguson said she’d had very little time to pull her comrade sisters together.

“I love Zolani’s singing, she’s so beautiful. She’s very busy and was available for only one night, the 4th. Tina Schouw is an old comrade of mine. She has been consistent on the platforms of protest in the Western Cape.

“She went and personally challenged this lawyer that tried to slut-shame me on 702. She went and personally challenged him. Which I thought was extremely courageous. So we not only sing together really nicely, we’re deep friends, and her activism heart is gold.

“We also have a choir from Khayelitsha. Eight voices from Khayelitsha and six voices from the Cape Town Youth Choir. So we’ll do very beautiful things.

“I have worked on a song called Mayibuye iAfrica, which goes into Bawo. It takes this very simple narrative of my #MeToo story. That was healed in the dawn, in the sea, by these beautiful Zionists, that welcomed me into the sea so that I could go into the waves. I received a baptism, a cleansing without them knowing who I was, or what happened in the hours before. And that was a show of the power of who we are as Africans. They saw me standing at the edge watchingthey heard my silent cry.

“So in the song it says: ‘come bring your broken body, come bring your broken skin, come bring your shame and sin, come sink beneath the waves, come drown so that you may be born again’,” she said.

She said the music she would be performing at the shows would also include old music.

“When I played some of the old songs that I found in my piles of papers of finished songs, these are the pieces of songs that stood out to me. But a surprising number of them, the spirits that informed those songs, started to lift. I felt them.

“Moses Molelekwa, for example. We had a very special friendship when he was young. It was a deeply significant relationship which I was maybe then not courageous enough to embrace. There was a big age difference, but when I look back and I see how it would have been different... Had I said yes, maybe he’d still be alive.”

Her voice drops to a haunting whisper. The grief that is evident in her recollection is moving.

“It is one of those things I have in my rucksack that’s a bit heavy. I think that with suicide and tragic dying, it’s hard to close these things. I came back three weeks after it happened, to the same office where it had happened. It hadn’t been cleaned, there was still the apple core, and I sat there. It was as if it had just been paused. I sat there and I was praying. I had written something specific that he’d said: ‘I did not die, I just changed form.’

“And when I opened my eyes, on the side of the desk in his handwriting and highlighted, were the 28 names of God; from Alpha to Omega. All biblical references of the supreme being. Listed impeccably.

“When we first met him, I was rehearsing at the Market Theatre alone. And I was writing a difficult song about Barend Strydom. I was also trying to write the story of a girl who was dealing with a broken love. A break-up. And in the newspapers were the images of this insanity by Strydom. Before he commited the crime, he said he went to the bush for three days to ask God for a sign, and no sign came. So he went and did it.

“So I was writing this song and in the midst of it I asked why God didn’t stop him. I’m writing and playing and at the end, when I was finished and quiet, my eyes were closed and I heard this voice: How do you see God?

“And it’s Moses Molelekwa standing on the other side with just one question.

“That was the beginning of our friendship. And when I found that list, the names of God, he concluded our first conversation then,” she said.

“I’m doing Where are you Gonna be Tomorrow, that’s a song he and I did.

“For people coming to the show, they can expect beautiful music of the heart #WeToo is hopefully an inception, a campaign with various organisations. Right now we’re getting the ground ready,” she said.

* For tickets, and more information visit: http://www.baxter.co.za/shows/jennifer/