Tributes pour in for singer and activist Khwezi
IT WAS a farewell to someone who had a circle of friends, family and community around her. Someone who’s name was not just “Khwezi, the rape accuser”. Her name was Fezekile Kuzwayo.
An intimate memorial at the offices of Section 27 in Braamfontein saw Aids activists and friends gather to remember the woman who stood up against President Jacob Zuma as his rape accuser.
Zuma was acquitted of the the charge and Kuzwayo went into hiding in the Netherlands and later in KwaZulu-Natal.
This week she died in a hospital in Johannesburg – an activist who sought justice to the end.
Durban journalist Ida Jooste remembers a soprano with mismatched earrings and a joke and smile to share. TUESDAY is choir day. I look forward to rehearsals, not I am Khanga What about the tear that ran down my face as I lay stiff with shock; In what sick world is that sex In what sick world is that consent The same world where the rapist becomes the victim The same world where I become the bitch that must burn The same world where I am forced into exile because I spoke out? This is NOT my world
– Fezekile“Khwezi”Kuzwayo only because singing is fun and the music magnificent, but because Fezekile and I will do an earring check. I admire her stylishly mismatched earrings and she admires my dangly ones.
She promises never to let me down by wearing boring earrings, and I promise the same.
This past Saturday, the Durban Symphonic Choir had an extraordinary rehearsal: the first session with maestro Justus Frantz, who had come to Durban by special invite to conduct Mozart’s Requiem, a mass for the dead.
He told us the story of how the 9/11 attack in New York galvanised members of his Philarmonie of Nations orchestra to drive across Europe to perform Mozart’s Requiem for a solidarity concert in Hamburg the next day.
In November, Frantz is per- forming the Requiem for the Pope at the Vatican, because he is worried about the state of the world.
I arrived at rehearsal and saw that my earring mate was missing. I’m a bit worried about her, because she had lost so much weight, but I don’t think more of it.
Then, on Sunday morning, news comes through: the death of “Khwezi, Zuma’s rape accuser”. I think of Khwezi, unknown to me, but the scenes of the court case in 2006 dart through my mind. I am angry. Angry at how the victim became the villain. Angry at the betrayal by a League of Women who ought to have understood. They profoundly let her down – and let down all women who are brave enough to call out abuse of power.
I read Khwezi’s poem, I am Khanga, to try to find meaning:
Most people in the choir did not know.
In media accounts we hear that neighbours in KwaMashu did not know.
Lindi Mandulo, another soprano who met Fezekile when she joined the choir in 2013, says: “I would like to remember her as Fezekile, not Khwezi, the rape accuser. She was so desperate to have her real name back.
“Her identity is Fezekile Kuzwayo, the sweetest person I have known. Ours was a friendship without clutter. I accepted and loved her.’’
Fezekile Kuzwayo (centre) sings with the Durban Symphonic Choir.