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Lady Zamar: Is a woman’s word ever good enough on its own?

News Analysis

In October last year, house singer-songwriter Lady Zamar took to Twitter to say that hip-hop artist Sjava had “abused (verbally and once sexually)” her in the recent past. The thread, which has since been removed from her account, was shared by fans, who questioned her about their past following Sjava’s first One Night with Sjava performance.

In response to this, Sjava said on Twitter: “As a final statement on this matter, I write to you as my colleagues, business partners, peers and supporters to inform you that I will not be engaging on matters of assault and abuse levelled against me on social media or any other platform. I have instituted legal proceedings in the high court of SA and as such the matter is now sub judice.”

Although some Twitter users made little of Lady Zamar’s revelations, many stood by her and threatened to cancel the artist until he was removed from the South African entertainment circuit. 

Sjava’s flourishing career

Sjava  (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)
Since allegations made by Lady Zamar, Sjava has managed to headline at the Afropunk festival and sell out his one-man show (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Despite these threats, Sjava still managed to bag a number of headlining opportunities — including the 2019 Johannesburg leg of the Afropunk festival.

At Afropunk, it seemed as if festival goers were so immersed in the event’s safe space and joyful vibes that they had forgotten to problematise the fact that Sjava was set to perform. It was only when the presenters announced that he was up next that people began murmuring among each other about how to respond to his presence at a festival that prides itself in being a safe space. 

“Agg, I used to love that man,” a woman said to her friend, while lighting a cigarette and turning her back to the stage in what looked like defiance. Just then a small but determined choir of “boos” travelled towards the stage and landed at the artist’s feet. 

But, shortly thereafter, the disapproval was drowned out by the wave of hysterical shrieks and desperate moans that cheered the artist on as he approached the mic wearing his isiZulu leopard-hide attire. 

“If Afropunk was for him, who can be against him?” sighed a disappointed woman in the crowd before walking away from her spot right in front of the stage.  

The aggrieved former fans who tried to cancel Sjava as a first move towards justice, seemed to be making peace with the fact that there was going to be no social cost for the allegations that Lady Zamar had made against him. 

Since Afropunk, then Sjava has continued to be fully booked. This past weekend he sold out tickets for the second leg of his One Night with Sjava show at the Durban International Convention Centre with backing from Gagasi FM and SABC 1. 

Last weekend Sunday World reported that Lady Zamar had opened a case against Sjava in November last year. The publication said it had received confirmation of the case from Limpopo police spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo.

Subsequently, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival became the first event to remove Sjava from its lineup. The festival’s management used Twitter to announce the fact that they removed him from the festival because of the “seriousness of the allegations levelled against Sjava”. 

Although this may be considered a win, it took the South African Police Service publicly confirming that a case had been opened for Lady Zamar’s account to be taken with this level of seriousness. Her allegations did, after all, exist before the Cape Town International Jazz Festival booked Sjava.

Her word alone did not seem to be enough.   

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Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa studies Digital Democracy, New Media and Political Activism, and Digital Politics.

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