Remembering Khwezi and how the ANCWL continues without admitting they were wrong

The ANC Women's League has yet to apologise to Khwezi’s family for their behaviour during the 2006 rape trial.

The ANC Women's League has yet to apologise to Khwezi’s family for their behaviour during the 2006 rape trial.

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) released its response to Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo’s death, but it is a fatal admission of how the ANCWL will never take accountability for its attack on Khwezi during her rape trial against Jacob Zuma.

In their statement on Monday, the ANCWL preached the high moral ground, asking media to “refrain from politicising the matter and handle it with the sensitivity it deserves”.

“As Africans we must respect the family in mourning, we further urge South Africans at large to respect the soul of the deceased and allow her to rest in peace with no undue speculations,” the ANCWL said in a statement.

Yet, when Khwezi accused the then deputy president Jacob Zuma of raping her in 2006, the women’s league stood alongside Zuma as he sang Umshini Wam. They also went on with their support of Zuma, saying that if the courts had found him innocent, then it did not matter that he was accused of sexual violence.

“Those who feel the league should not have nominated him because of the rape case want us to be part of a kangaroo court. The case went to court and everybody knows the outcome,” said ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini in 2007.

A case of sensitivity 
According to Mpumi Mathabela, a member of the 1 in 9 campaign which sought justice for Khwezi, the ANCWL also made damning remarks about Khwezi at the time, saying “she should feel lucky to have been raped by such a handsome man”. 

Zuma’s supporters held placards at the court that were wholly uncouth, threatening Khwezi’s life. They shouted that she should burn. The ANCWL heard them, but not once did they say anything to protect Khwezi. How’s that for sensitivity?

A browse through the ANCWL press statements on their website, will show that they have deleted 2006 from their archives. But now they claim they have learnt a lesson.

“Many of us have learnt a lesson and part of it is that, as women, we should always be united; you uphold the principle,” the ANCWL said in a statement on Monday.

“She [Khwezi] highlighted that we are not free as women yet; we still have so many challenges. She definitely stood her ground even though at the end she lost her case. But the important thing is that she was brave and fearless.”

The women’s league didn’t believe Khwezi was brave and fearless 10 years ago, instead they formed part of Zuma’s support campaign that would lead her to leave the country under police guard for fear of her life. But perhaps if politics weren’t at play, they might have been more sympathetic.

The fight for Reeva Steenkamp 
In the marathon trial which sought justice for Reeva Steenkamp after she was murdered by Oscar Pistorius, the ANCWL pledged support for the Steenkamp family and even held a remembrance march for Reeva.

They even vilified Judge Thokozile Masipa’s judgement which ruled that Pistorius would be sentenced to six months’ imprisonement.

“It’s an insult to women and to the Steenkamp family… It’s an emotional blow,” said Jacqui Mofokeng, ANCWL spokesperson, as she spoke Radio 702

When a member of the league mistakenly said that “Steenkamp must rot in jail”, instead of “Pistorius must rot in jail”, Dlamini visited the Steenkamp family to apologise

Yet, the league has yet to apologise to Khwezi’s family for their behaviour during the rape trial. The lesson: don’t touch the ANCWL on their Jacob Zuma. He will come before the women of South Africa.

Politricks of the ANCWL 
The announcement from the ANCWL that the media and South Africans shouldn’t politicise Khwezi’s death would be laughable from the organisation, if it wasn’t so saddening.

The ANCWL has in itself decided which women are deserving of its support on the basis of politics.

Remembering Khwezi, as many have noted, should not be reduced to the rape trial, the way she was treated and the injustice of it all. She had a life that she lived before and after trial.

As a woman, her body would have been politicised and objectified enough in a country where many believe that rape is a man’s right

But the ANCWL lives on, without a bowed head and admission of wrongdoing, while Khwezi will be remembered only as the woman who accused Zuma of rape and lost.

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra'eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather is a general news journalist with the Mail & Guardian’s online team. She cut her teeth at The Daily Vox in Cape Town before moving to Johannesburg and joining the M&G. She's written about memory, race and gender in columns and features, and has dabbled in photography. Read more from Ra'eesa Pather

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