Kh­wezi finds a name

Redi Tl­habi’s book on Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo re­veals the hor­ror of gen­der vi­o­lence in SA, writes Mole­batsi Masedi

African Times - - Leader - Mole­batsi Masedi is an ANC ac­tivist based in Polok­wane, Lim­popo, though from Ga-Mod­jadji

TO SPARE her­self from be­ing per­se­cuted and lynched the young woman who laid a rape charge against Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma over a decade, came to be known as Kh­wezi. The ugly and ac­ri­mo­nious trial that was sup­posed to dash Zuma’s pres­i­den­tial prospects ran its due course. He was ac­quit­ted and went to be­come pres­i­dent of both party and gov­ern­ment, twin po­si­tions she con­tin­ues to hold to this day.

Af­ter the trial Kh­wezi and her mother went to ex­ile in the Nether­land and later Tan­za­nia. It was no longer safe for her at home in Kwa-Mashu where the fam­ily house was torched.

Out of the pub­lic eye, she re­ceded to the fur­thest cor­ners of the na­tion’s col­lec­tive mem­ory. Life went on as nor­mal in the coun­try.

A decade later, ra­dio per­son­al­ity and author Redi Tl­habi brought it all back with her new book Kh­wezi, The re­mark­able life of Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo. It has been greeted by rave re­views and as ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu would put it, mas­sive au­di­ences. The book has be­come an in­dict­ment against a na­tion that is do­ing se­cure its women and chil­dren.

For the first time we get to know who Kh­wezi was, in­clud­ing her life in ex­ile, firstly in Nether­land and later Tan­za­nia. Fol­lowed by her quite re­turn to South Africa. Her full names are Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo.

It was upon her re­turn home from her sec­ond ex­ile that she col­lab­o­rated with Tl­habi on a book about her life. The book traces Fezeka’s life in ex­ile and the sex­ual abuses she suf­fered from those who were sup­posed to par­ent and pro­tect her. They were called un­cles, be­cause they were sup­posed to be fa­ther fig­ures to all the chil­dren in the ex­ile com­mu­nity.

Her abuses, which came out in the rape trial in 2006 are re­vealed in de­tail in the book.

The book goes cov­ers in de­tail the trauma of Fezeka’s life in ex­ile. We learn that she was daugh­ter of Jud­son and Beauty. Her fa­ther Jud­son, was the lead­ing light in the ANC who did time in Robben Is­land and later went into ex­ile where she was born. He died in a car ac­ci­dent in Zimbabwe where he was the party’s chief rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

She was still young, al­most ten years old ac­cord­ing to the book, at the time of her fa­ther’s death.

Tl­habi fur­ther sheds light on the sex­ual abuses that women were gen­er­ally sub­jected to dur­ing the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion, and which con­tinue to haunt the na­tion to­day. A case in point was when she was five years old and the fam­ily was liv­ing in Swazi­land where her youth­ful in­no­cence was shat­tered by an un­cle who raped her. It hap­pened again seven years later, she was twelve years old at the time.

She re­ceived no jus­tice for her sex­ual abuses, she suf­fered in si­lence un­til the time of her death in 2016.

The book de­cries the omis­sion in the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion brief to in­ves­ti­gate and in­ter­ro­gate apartheid era and lib­er­a­tion era sex­ual abuses. It only in­ter­ro­gated po­lit­i­cal ex­cesses to the ex­clu­sion of oth­ers, in­clud­ing sex­ual abuses in­flicted on women by the con­flict­ing par­ties.

Women are said to have been sex­u­ally abused in the mil­i­tary camps of the lib­er­a­tion move­ments in ex­ile. The ex­cesses of the lib­er­a­tion move­ment against women are cap­tured in Flame, a con­tro­ver­sial Zim­bab­wean war film. The film pays trib­ute to the Zimbabwe African Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army’s many fe­male guerrillas.

“South Africa’s Truth Africa’s Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion (TRC) did not have a cat­e­gory for gen­der vi­o­lence against women,”Tl­habi’s book ar­gues.

Since the pub­li­ca­tion of Kh­wezi there has been a se­ri­ous na­tional awak­en­ing and di­a­logue on women and chil­dren abuse. The coun­try has be­come more open and ro­bust about this so­cial scourge that is eat­ing away its moral fab­ric.

The pub­li­ca­tion of the book was go­ing to be a great mo­ment for Fezeka. Not only would it tell the story of her life, it would also for the first time just af­ter a decade re­veal her true iden­tity. South Africa and the world would know her true iden­tity, that she was Fezek­ile Nt­sukela Kuzwayo.

The mask she had been hid­ing be­hind for her safety and se­cu­rity would be re­moved, re­veal­ing her true iden­tity.

She didn’t live to see her life im­mor­talised in the book, she died a year be­fore the com­ple­tion and pub­li­ca­tion of the book. She was go­ing to be part of the launches where she would come for­ward in pub­lic to re­claim her name and share her life or­deals. Th­ese would hope­fully rid her the trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ences of her life.

“But to­day, in th­ese pages, she is here to re­claim her own name,”Tl­habi writes in the in­tro­duc­tion to the book.

Kh­wezi is not a nice book, just like the re­al­ity the gen­der vi­o­lence run­ning ram­pant in the coun­try. It makes for painful read­ing. A tear would fall as I turned the page. This is a book all South Africans must read and read.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.