Be­tray­ing Kh­wezi and then our­selves

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

FEZEKILE Ntsukela Kuzwayo once at­tempted to cloak her iden­tity un­der the name “Kh­wezi” (Zulu for “bright morn­ing star”).

She al­leged Ja­cob Zuma raped her in 2005. The pres­i­dent, a fam­ily friend of the Kuzwayos, was ac­quit­ted. He claimed the woman who af­fec­tion­ately called him “malume” (un­cle) had agreed to con­sen­sual sex; the kanga she wore on the night of the al­leged rape sig­nalled a sex­ual in­vi­ta­tion.

Kh­wezi be­came the ac­cused. Her de­trac­tors claimed she was a “honey trap” in a plot to tar­nish Zuma’s im­age. She and her mother sought sanc­tu­ary in the Nether­lands.

The life of Kuzwayo, now of blessed mem­ory, bears strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties to the story of the un­known con­cu­bine in the Book of Judges. In a state of anger the woman had left her Le­vite hus­band and re­turned to her fa­ther’s house.

Four months later the Le­vite ar­rived at his fa­ther-in-law’s home where he ap­proached his wife “to speak friendly unto her”.

The cou­ple rec­on­ciled and af­ter a few days set out on their re­turn jour­ney. They ar­rived at the city of Gibeah as the sun was set­ting. An old man in­vited them to his house where “they washed their feet, and ate and drank”.

On the sur­face we wit­ness an out­pour­ing of east­ern hos­pi­tal­ity but what hap­pens later that evening re­veals the qual­i­fied na­ture of the old man’s open-hearted gen­eros­ity. Dur­ing the night a group of men sur­rounded the house and de­manded: “Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have in­ter­course with him.”

The old man, af­fronted by these de­mands re­minds his fel­low Gibeahi­ans that the Le­vite is his guest. (The con­cu­bine is not in­cluded in what is ul­ti­mately a misog­y­nis­tic em­brace). He cau­tions them against do­ing “this vile thing”.

In­stead he says: “Here are my vir­gin daugh­ter and his con­cu­bine; let me bring them out now. Rav­ish them and do what­ever you want to them.”

Dur­ing the en­su­ing dis­agree­ment the Le­vite grabs his con­cu­bine and evicts her from their frag­ile sanc­tu­ary. She is raped through­out the night.

In the morn­ing the Le­vite dis­mem­bers her corpse: He cuts it into twelve pieces and despatches it to the twelve tribes of Is­rael. Even in death her body serves the pur­pose of an­other: a call to avenge the hu­mil­i­a­tion in­flicted, not on the per­son of the con­cu­bine, but on the dig­nity of the tribe.

Kh­wezi, a star ever-con­stant over all home­lands of truth, your mo­ment in mea­sured time se­cured.

Qui­etly you em­braced the im­men­sity – in­fin­itely be­yond the Large Mag­el­lanic Cloud – of eter­nity af­ter you came home from Am­s­ter­dam as from Mba­bane, as from home­steads deep in the val­leys of your un­fath­omable sor­row.

You spoke to us even when we would not lis­ten: “I may never be free from the agony of your treach­ery but will for­ever cher­ish the free­dom to speak that my fa­ther got mur­dered fight­ing for.”

Your tes­ti­mony shamed us for en­trust­ing the shield of the na­tion to the pre­med­i­tat­ing vi­o­la­tor of your trust and of truth.

The spear of your poem, I am Khanga, held high in the clenched hope of your war­rior-spirit, sang of your un­pre­ten­tious wis­dom, trea­sur­ing the tex­tured essence of our shared mem­o­ries of Africa.

The kanga adorns the bod­ies of women bent over tea plants green and fra­grant in Kenya’s Limuru high­lands on the east­ern rim of the Great Rift Val­ley.

A bright wrap of love bind­ing mothers and ba­bies rest­ing in the shade of awn­ings in Stone Town in Zanz­ibar.

“The per­fect gift,” you wrote, “for new bride and new mother alike.” The seed of proverbs and po­etry. A marker of his­tory. A cel­e­bra­tory tes­ta­ment to the imag­i­na­tion.

This egal­i­tar­ian fab­ric, your night­dress, when that night of si­lence and lies led you back along the sad lanes of your un­end­ing ex­ile.

Kh­wezi, ever-con­stant over all home­lands of truth your ten­der mo­ment in our lives and mea­sured time is se­cured on the horns of our grat­i­tude for re­leas­ing us from the si­lence which be­trayed you and our­selves.

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