One in Nine Campaign marches in support of Khwezi
One in Nine Campaign members have cautioned women not to enter the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, warning them that the building is unsafe because it is where former deputy president, and current President, Jacob Zuma was found not guilty of raping a 31-year-old HIV-positive woman, known only as Khwezi, four years ago.
Showing solidarity with Khwezi
The campaign, established in 2006 at the start of the Zuma rape trial, organised a picket outside the high court on Tuesday as a sign of solidarity with Khwezi, and other women who have reported rape.
30 protestors cautioned women not to enter the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on May 11 warning them that the building is unsafe.
After song and dance, the female protesters marched on to Kruis Street, where they hung a banner from the Colman Chamber building, reading: “Four years later, Zuma is president, Khwezi is in exile, where is the justice?”
“Today we are remembering Khwezi, who four years ago had to listen to a judgement being handed down by this court, which stripped her of her dignity, which spoke about her past sexual history, which questioned her sexuality, where culture was used as an excuse, where what she was wearing was used as an excuse, and who has now subsequently been exiled for the last four years,” Kwezilomso Mbandazayo, One in Nine Campaign project officer, told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday.
“We are here saying we remember you, we haven’t forgotten and we know the injustice that was carried on and happened to you in this court, and we are trying to tell them that they need to fix something because women survivors are not safe in these courts; the conviction rates are too low and rapists are let go everyday, ” she added.
On April 3 2006, Zuma told the court that neither he nor Khwezi had a condom, but they had sex. Zuma said he asked if he could ejaculate inside her, and she did not respond; he went ahead and ejaculated inside her. He then had a shower and returned to find she was leaving.
Public letter to Khwezi
In a public letter to Khwezi, the campaign wrote that it was inspired by Khwezi’s courage in speaking out.
“You sought justice even as you knew the price you would have to pay for speaking out in a society that largely silences survivors of rape.”
According to a Medical Research Council study conducted in 2005, only one in every nine rape survivors report the attack to the police.
The campaign said it could not give information about Khwezi’s whereabouts because it still thinks that it is not safe for Khwezi to return to South Africa.
“Khwezi is unable to come home because this society and the state cannot guarantee her safety,” said Sipho Mthathi, steering committee member of the One in Nine Campaign. On March 7 2006, a group of mostly female Zuma supporters burned an A4-size picture of Khwezi, identifying her real name and surname, while shouting: “Burn this bitch.”
“The reason she [Khwezi] left was because in no uncertain terms President Jacob Zuma’s supporters during the rape trial made it clear that she wasn’t welcomed here, she wasn’t safe here and so she would not be able to come home,” said Mthathi.
“We know that Khwezi grew up in exile, so this is a second exile and like anyone else she would like to be able to come home.”
ANC Youth League president Julius Malema also garbaged Khwezi’s claims when he made suggestions in the media that Khwezi had a “nice time”.
“When a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money,” he said while addressing 150 Cape Peninsula University of Technology students last year.
“In the morning, that lady requested breakfast and taxi money,” Malema added to an applauding and cheering audience. He concluded by saying: “You can’t ask for money from somebody who raped you.”
The Sonke Gender Justice Network was infuriated by these comments and took Malema to court.
Malema’s comments were seen to amount to hate speech and harassment.
“Magistrate Collis has shown that we have a solid and strong justice system in South Africa that upholds the values of the Constitution, and this ruling demonstrates that the court system can protect the rights of rape survivors,” Mbuyiselo Botha, Sonke spokesperson, told the media in a press statement earlier this year.
Word on the street
Mzaxolo Mjoli (20), who was around the protesters on Tuesday, disagreed with the campaign, saying, “Zuma didn’t rape anyone, they must not accuse Zuma.”
Mpho Mavuso (21) had a different view.
“I think it’s not good what the president is doing. As the president of the country he should be leading by example, he should be showing other young men, encouraging them to do good things. I think this president should be recalled because every woman will be getting pregnant because of this president.”
Interview with Khwezi
In a recent interview with the One in Nine Campaign, Khwezi spoke about how the past few years have been an emotional roller-coaster for both her and her mom.
“At a time when I needed support, was angry and needed an outlet and a way to make sense of everything with like-minded people—whether in the form of just sitting together in silence, singing, laughing, crying or protesting—I found myself alone, without these activists and friends,” Khwezi said.
Despite this, Khwezi told the campaign that she did not regret making the decision to lay the rape charge.
“I still maintain that it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do, that there was no choice in the matter and that I would do the same, even knowing what I know now.”