From trusted un­cle to preda­tor

Kh­wezi’s ac­count of her sex­ual en­counter with Zuma is eas­ily be­liev­able to­day

Sunday Times - - NEWS | ON TRIAL - By NA­DINE DREYER

“He was al­ways the per­fect gen­tle­man, never flir­ta­tious or in­ap­pro­pri­ate,” vet­eran jour­nal­ist and au­thor Redi Tl­habi writes of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in her re­veal­ing book, Kh­wezi: The re­mark­able story of Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo.

“I was very com­fort­able with him and ad­mired his com­mit­ment to our coun­try and the con­ti­nent,” says Tl­habi, who had numer­ous in­ter­ac­tions with Zuma dur­ing which he had al­ways been “po­lite, cour­te­ous and a great con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist”.

The gen­tle­man’s man­ners re­mained per­fect — un­til one day he sug­gested she come for tea, and stay for din­ner and break­fast.

“I have never been alone with him since,” she writes.

Tl­habi’s book ex­plores the tragic life of the woman known as Kh­wezi un­til she passed away on Oc­to­ber 8 last year. Af­ter her sud­den death there was no longer any rea­son to hide her iden­tity from those who had hounded her in life.

Strug­gle vet­eran

Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo was the daugh­ter of po­lit­i­cally ac­tive par­ents and grew up in ex­ile. She was the woman who, in 2005, dared ac­cuse one of the most pow­er­ful men in the coun­try of rape, a man who had spent 10 years on Robben Is­land with her fa­ther, strug­gle vet­eran Jud­son Kuzwayo. Zuma had been a trusted un­cle, her malume, who had com­forted her when her beloved fa­ther died when she was al­most 10, and had many anec­dotes to share with her.

Dur­ing the rape trial, Fezek­ile’s life was threat­ened by Zuma’s bay­ing lynch mob. Pro­tes­tors shouted “Burn the bitch” out­side court. Her home in Kwa­Mashu was burnt to the ground. She fled the coun­try the day af­ter Zuma was ac­quit­ted. “The coun­try, their home, had spat them out,” writes Tl­habi.

A bub­bly, in­tel­li­gent, talk­a­tive young woman was forced to live like a refugee, con­tin­u­ally on the run, ever watch­ful for an act of re­venge.

In her book, Tl­habi re­lates an­other dis­turb­ing in­ci­dent that adds to the ev­i­dence that Zuma is a com­pul­sive sex­ual preda­tor. It also in­volves a fe­male jour­nal­ist. This woman, a se­nior po­lit­i­cal correspondent, was in­vited to his For­est Town house, the home Fezek­ile had vis­ited on that life-chang­ing night.

Vic­tim of a hon­ey­trap

The jour­nal­ist had backed Zuma through­out his rape trial and had been al­lowed into the nu­cleus of the Zuma strat­egy. She had bought his story that he was in­no­cent, the vic­tim of a hon­ey­trap to hob­ble his chances of be­com­ing pres­i­dent of the coun­try. Kh­wezi had ac­cused him of rape; he claimed it was con­sen­sual and she had ini­ti­ated it by wear­ing a kanga. She was 31. He was 63. He claimed he pro­tected him­self against her HIV sta­tus by hav­ing a shower af­ter in­ter­course.

The jour­nal­ist’s or­deal had be­gun when Zuma in­vited her to dis­cuss a “sen­si­tive mat­ter” with him and one of his aides. Af­ter chat­ting for a few min­utes about noth­ing in par­tic­u­lar, Zuma called the male aide aside for a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion and the man left.

Zuma then told the jour­nal­ist he had some­thing to show her. She fol­lowed him to a room and she sud­denly re­alised it was his bed­room. He had his arms around her, and was press­ing him­self against her body. He “planted a long, de­ter­mined kiss on her lips”.

The jour­nal­ist man­aged to pull away and made the first ex­cuse she could think of: that she was hav­ing her pe­riod.

“Bizarrely, he re­as­sured her, telling her not to worry, be­cause they could try again next time,” writes Tl­habi.

“He gave me an al­most fa­therly pat on my shoul­der, telling me not to worry.”

Af­ter be­ing a staunch Zuma sup­porter, the emo­tional woman con­fessed to Tl­habi that at that mo­ment she re­alised that Fezek­ile had told the truth all along.

“I knew it. I did not be­lieve her be­fore and thought Zuma was a vic­tim. But that day, about three years af­ter the trial, I knew she had been telling the truth.”

But three years ear­lier, in 2005, Fezek­ile had been up against the for­mer head of Mbokodo, the in­ter­nal in­tel­li­gence arm of the ANC. A mas­ter at dirty tricks and op­er­at­ing un­der cover.

Fezek­ile faced un­bear­able pres­sure to drop the case, some of it from big play­ers within the move­ment she re­garded as part of her fam­ily.

“Every day, I felt fear. Every sin­gle day, I felt fear,” Fezek­ile tells Tl­habi.

Two “aun­ties” who had known her as a child urged her to drop the case, claim­ing it would “rip the ANC apart”. The Zuma camp tried sev­eral times to of­fer cash in ex­change for her si­lence. ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Zweli Mkhize — one of the con­tenders for the ANC pres­i­dency this De­cem­ber — linked her up with an at­tor­ney. She was led to be­lieve “Malume Mkhize” had ar­ranged the le­gal ex­pert to en­sure she was pro­tected in the course of the trial. Ini­tially the at­tor­ney seemed sym­pa­thetic and help­ful, but when he re­alised Fezek­ile was de­ter­mined to con­tinue with the charges, against his ad­vice, he re­marked that Mkhize would be “sur­prised at the out­come of the meet­ing”.

Fezek­ile de­scribes sev­eral sin­is­ter episodes dur­ing the trial. In wit­ness pro­tec­tion she was as­signed a fe­male body­guard, known as Leila, who bizarrely at­tended all her ses­sions with her le­gal team and her psy­chol­o­gist. Po­lice ad­vised her to al­low Leila to tape all these ses­sions and specif­i­cally ad­vised her not to tell her le­gal team about the record­ings. Some­times Leila would dis­ap­pear at night from the safe house, leav­ing Fezek­ile alone and un­pro­tected.

One night Fezek­ile woke up to find all her body­guards had van­ished and all the doors to the house were wide open. It was only af­ter she fran­ti­cally phoned state pros­e­cu­tor Charin de Beer that the guards re­turned, with­out ex­pla­na­tion.

The trial, which be­gan on March 6 2006, left her emo­tion­ally bruised and bat­tered. Fezek­ile thought the or­deal she would face as the ac­cuser would be about the present, but Zuma’s coun­sel, Ad­vo­cate Kemp J Kemp SC, resurrected the demons of her past.

When Fezek­ile was five and liv­ing in ex­ile with her par­ents, she went to a neigh­bour­ing aun­tie’s house to run a bath. “For many, ex­ile was about com­mu­nal liv­ing and shar­ing,” writes Tl­habi. The aun­tie’s brother, in his early 30s, ran a bath for her and or­dered her to take off her clothes. He then took her to the bed­room and raped her.

“Lib­er­a­tors and op­pres­sors had some­thing in com­mon: their propen­sity for vio- lence and de­mand for women’s bod­ies,” writes Tl­habi. “To fight an evil sys­tem, surely one must have a sense of jus­tice? Not when it comes to women and chil­dren’s bod­ies.”

Fezek­ile was raped two more times, once when she was 12 and then again at 13.

Dur­ing cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, Kemp poured scorn on her ver­sion of all three at­tacks as well as her sex­ual his­tory, paint­ing a por­trait of her as a slut.

At one stage re­fer­ring to her rape at the age of five, Kemp refers to her at­tacker as “hav­ing sex with you”.

“That the court did not gasp at the thought of a man in his thir­ties ‘hav­ing sex with a five-year-old’ is stag­ger­ing,” writes Tl­habi.

“I re­mem­ber now,” says Fezek­ile. “I re­mem­ber wishing it would all end. I re­mem­ber just be­ing in my bed. But I did not feel I had done any­thing wrong in be­ing a sex­u­ally ac­tive adult.”

Fezek­ile’s mother, Beauty, was in­ter­ro­gated about her daugh­ter’s ther­apy ses­sions in ex­ile. “What was wrong with your daugh­ter,” Beauty was asked about her daugh­ter’s need for ther­apy.

“I thought be­ing raped at the age of five, 12 and 13 was a good start,” she replied.

It was only af­ter five years in ex­ile that Fezek­ile and her mother felt safe enough to touch down on South African soil again. Lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions were tak­ing place so friends dragged Fezek­ile off to cast her bal­lot, only to find she was not on the vot­ers roll, as if her ex­is­tence had been erased. How did this make her feel? “I’ve been fight­ing all my life, dear. All my life. It wasn’t any­thing new. I was cop­ing, some­times not cop­ing, one fool at a time, dear. Al­ways one fool at a time.” See an ex­clu­sive ex­tract from ‘Kh­wezi‘ in In­sight

She fol­lowed him to a room and sud­denly re­alised it was his bed­room Fe­male po­lit­i­cal correspondent

Pic­ture: Sim­phiwe Nk­wali

Si­mamkele Dlakavu, one of four pro­test­ers who up­staged Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ad­dress at the elec­tion re­sults an­nounce­ment last year.

Pic­ture: Reuters

Ja­cob Zuma in the dock dur­ing his rape trial in the High Court in Jo­han­nes­burg.

De­spite the trou­bles that be­set her, Fezek­ile Kuzwayo had an out­go­ing, bub­bly na­ture.

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