/ 11 December 2017

ANC presidential hopefuls have used Khwezi as a political gimmick to curry favour

The One in Nine Campaign showed solidarity with Khwezi
The One in Nine Campaign showed solidarity with Khwezi


It’s a sad day in South African politics when African National Congress presidential hopefuls resort to evoking the trial of Fezekile “Khwezi” Kuzwayo as a cheap ploy to try and win.

The ANC national conference is looming, and presidential candidates have been using every trick in the book to win public favour. But using Khwezi to gain fervour is quite simply, sickening.

Fezekile Kuzwayo is the daughter of an ANC member who was imprisoned on Robben Island with President Jacob Zuma for 10 years. Kuzwayo accused Zuma – whom she regarded as a father figure – of raping her in 2005. Kuzwayo’s trial was arduous, and she begged for the support of powerful ANC politicians – men and women that she grew up calling ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’ because of her upbringing within the liberation struggle. But they all turned their backs on her and she was forced to flee to The Netherlands when Zuma was acquitted of the rape in 2006, and from the threats from his supporters. She passed away in 2016 at the age of 41.

ANC presidential contender and current party treasurer Zweli Mkhize in particular played a pivotal role in securing Kuzwayo’s downfall in the trial. According to journalist Redi Tlhabi’s book Khwezi, he sent Kuzwayo a letter after she laid the rape charge against Zuma and talked to her about the case and the pros and cons of going on with it. Mkhize initially seemed supportive of Kuzwayo but at the end of the conversation, advised her to drop the charges. Mkhize said Tlhabi’s version of events that he tried to hush up the matter is untrue and that she had never tried to contact him for his version.

Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said last week on Karima Brown’s Radio 702 show on that he believes Kuzwayo was raped. However, his initial answer to the question was that he had “to go with” the ruling of the court. He then said that at the same time he had to “pay heed” to Kuzwayo and “pledge his sympathy” towards her because of the bravery she showed in coming forward with the rape allegations. People cheered in the background of the interview when Ramaphosa eventually relented and said he believed Kuzwayo.

Celebrating Ramaphosa for saying he believes Kuzwayo now after she had already suffered violence and exile and then died just because it is convenient for his agenda is puzzling.

The ANC Women’s League clapped back at a rally in Clermont, KwaZulu Natal on Saturday. The league president, and minister of social development Bathabile Dlamini said Ramaphosa should not use gender-based violence as a political tool. “We want to say, ‘Comrade Cyril if you want to speak out about violence against women and children, talk about yourself. You must open up because you say you know how difficult it is for a woman to take a stand,’” Dlamini said. Now that’s some tea that needs spilling.

Another presidential hopeful, housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu, roused South Africans when she said she “believes Khwezi believes she was raped,” on Eusebius McKaiser’s Radio 702 show in October. When pressed further, Sisulu eventually said she didn’t have enough evidence and that the law said “Comrade Jacob Zuma” was acquitted. Later on Twitter she commented, “I believe Khwezi. It’s a question of whether we have necessary structures to support them (victims of abuse), not whether we believe them or not.” We’re still trying to figure out what she meant.

ANC politicians cannot say that they believed both Khwezi and the court. An ordinary person is not bound by the word of the court; an ordinary person is allowed to say whether they believed Khwezi or the judgment handed down. You can’t have it both ways.

Besides, the legal truth is not gospel. The legal truth could also differ from the actual truth for many reasons. Writing for the Daily Maverick in September, constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said that one the greatest problems with the criminal justice system is that most criminals are never arrested or prosecuted. “In rape cases, this problem is even more acute – the vast majority of rapists in South Africa are never convicted of rape,” he wrote. About 150 women daily report being raped to the police in South Africa. Less than 30 of the cases will be prosecuted, and fewer than 10 will result in a conviction. Overall 4-8% of reported rape cases are convicted, the vast majority of rapists in South Africa are never convicted of rape.

Judges are trained to make impartial decisions based on evidence presented in court. A better resourced party may be better able to collect evidence and present a stronger case to the judge than their opposition. Zuma was far better resourced than Kuzwayo. De Vos also writes that the actual truth may differ to legal truth because of the difficulty many of us have with assessing facts in an absolutely impartial manner.

It is also upsetting that journalists evoke Kuzwayo’s history to trick presidential wannabes into continuously defining her in relation to Zuma.

Kuzwayo never wanted to be defined by Zuma when she was living, let us not reduce her in to that in her death.

ANC politicians could have steered from the legal structures a number of times since Zuma was acquitted and said they believed Kuzwayo. None of the ANC presidential candidates have a leg to stand on when it comes to the case of Kuzwayo. All of them quietly served under a man who, I believe, raped Khwezi. They chose party politics over justice for a woman who was vulnerable to his power. It’s not enough to say you believe her now after her gruelling trial, the public violence and threats to her livelihood, her exile and her death. It’s not enough to conveniently believe her now because it suits your selfish play for political power. ANC presidential candidates are fooling nobody. Their stances on gender-based violence and Zuma as a leader were irrelevant then and they remain irrelevant now. — The Daily Vox