Gone too soon, but we remember you...

2017-10-15 06:18
Dearly missed: Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo

Dearly missed: Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo

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Hey Fez,

This is one of the hardest letters I have had to write. It doesn’t feel right to address you in the third person as I had initially agreed to, hence this open letter. I often speak to you in my head, remembering our crazy times and our endless laughter, our arguments that lasted all of five minutes before one of us humbled ourselves. Of course that’s a trait that started at school in Malkerns Valley Primary, Swaziland, where most of the “ANC Masupatsela a Tambo” school kids like us went.

Aunty Joyce, a comrade mother figure, drove us by bus daily to and from school. I wonder where she is, hopefully still alive. Our sister-friends Zipho Sexwale, Ntando Radebe, Ayanda Sisulu, Lungile Motsa, Ntsiki Manzini, Khethiwe Mwandla and many others would be on that bus sharing jokes, swapping lunch boxes and being pranksters. Our parents tried so hard to normalise our abnormal childhoods.

I’m happy we were family to each other when we didn’t have a chance to know most of our biological ones in South Africa and others exiled globally. The year my immediate family spent in Swaziland, when you and I were nine years old, before we moved to Europe, was one of my most memorable and happiest. You guys made fun of my attempt at isiZulu and isiSwati – knowing I spoke Sesotho – and my uppity English accent from the Lesotho school my sister and I attended there, taught by foreigners. In line with our generally unusual childhoods, we were taught French by a Jamaican man. Remember that? I loved our school and that period because, for the first time, most of my teachers were black.

In your final days you hid your deterioration from many who loved you. I kind of ran away pretending to not know how bad things really were, though deep down I sensed it. I failed you. You trusted my mama, my sister Matso and other level-headed people with whom you shared mutual respect. You and I both knew I just couldn’t handle it. You often visited them in Johannesburg to ensure you and Aunty Beauty, your mother, had a solid support structure.

Fez, you were a powerful force. You spoke truth to power by outing one of the most powerful people in this country. You never relented or backtracked, despite the humiliation, death threats, burning of your home and being forced into exile yet again to save your life.

I did not for a second disbelieve you. The ANC Women’s League, an organisation which has become an embarrassing joke, shamelessly supported a rape accused. They continue to sink to new lows each day. Having a vagina doesn’t necessarily make one a leader with women’s interests at heart.

The accused became president and has now allowed South Africa to be looted by his children, his cronies and an immigrant peasant family from India. Files are revealed daily. I can imagine you and I giggling as we watch them scramble to try and cover up their lies and theft. I’m pretty sure one of their fed-up underpaid employees leaked those infamous, damning emails.

Your dad, Uncle Judson, would have been furious that the freedom fighters he fought alongside would turn on you. They lied and ostracised you in public and recently, in a long letter, one of them refused to admit he failed you. Uncle Judson would be most furious at the accused.

You know that regardless of all the negative noise, advocacy voices like rape survivor and HIV/Aids support movements, legal eagles, feminist movements, the LGBTI community, the media and many ordinary members of society supported you. You lived your life openly with regard to your sexual orientation and having HIV. Others dispute that, but this letter to you is our truth.

A movement called the One in Nine campaign was formed to support you. At the time of your rape, one in nine women were raped in this country. Most of these cases were unreported. Today, horrifically, it is one in three. The One in Nine organisation still exists and continues to do amazing work, inspired by your bravery.

Last Sunday marked one year since you left us. I miss you every day and am appreciative that Redi Tlhabi has given you a public, human face with her book, which is sadly told in other people’s voices in the main, because you no longer walk among us.

Your footprints reside in the hearts of those who loved you dearly. When she reached out to me to connect her to you barely five months before your death, you asked me: “Who’s that?” I remember laughing at you and explaining. You consulted extensively with my mother as a writer, feminist and one of your main support structures, as well as our other friends and family such as Lungi.

A few weeks ago, on September 18, we celebrated your birthday with a braai, and managed to somehow keep our tears to a minimum. We turned it into a celebration of your life. The collective family we created is taking great care of and supporting Aunty Beauty. Uncle Ronnie (Kasrils) will use the money he received from successfully suing the one-armed chef to pay for her needs. Redi’s book proceeds too. Aunty is loved. You are loved dade. Your courage keeps me going.

Kay Sexwale is a communication strategist and political adviser.

To find out more and support the One in Nine campaign, please visit oneinnine.org.za

Read more on:    fezekile kuzwayo  |  khwezi

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