‘I am not here to please a man’ – Khwezi’s powerful poem about Zuma

Cape Town - Four women have turned the spotlight back on to South Africa’s rape statistics, and President Jacob Zuma’s past, with their silent protest during the announcement of the local government election results.

They want Khwezi - the woman who accused Zuma of rape in 2005 - to be remembered, and used the platform as a reminder of the events that unfolded more than 10 years ago.

Khwezi has not responded to the protest, but she did respond to Zuma's not-guilty verdict back in 2008, in a powerful poem published and performed in the Netherlands where she was living. 

The road to the Johannesburg High Court

In 1963, two men were on board a vessel that would take them to join Nelson Mandela in prison on Robben Island.

They were Jacob Zuma and Judson Khuzwayo - comrades and friends Volkskrant reported.

On November 2 2005, Khuzwayo’s daughter paid this comrade of her father - who had died in a car accident when she was 10 - a visit. Zuma invited her to spend the night.

In December, the woman - who became known to the world as Khwezi - laid a charge of rape against Zuma, who was then the deputy president of the country. He was found not guilty on May 8 2006 by the Johannesburg High Court.

Due to the anger of Zuma’s supporters, it was decided that Khwezi and her mother would be safer outside the country. With the help of former anti-apartheid campaigners and the Dutch aid organisation, Aids Fonds, they settled in the Netherlands and received a five-year residency permit. According to the Volkskrant, it was the result of "high-level political talks".

Poetic response

There, she responded to the verdict in April 2008 in a powerful poem, I am Khanga, that was published in ZAM Magazine under her own name: Fezeka Khuzwayo.

Dressed in a khanga (a traditional cloth), she performed the poem at the opening of the exhibition "Identity, Power and Connection", on the eve of the bi-annual Afrovibes Festival in Holland in the same year.

I am Khanga

I wrap myself around the curvaceous bodies of women all over Africa

I am the perfect nightdress on those hot African nights

The ideal attire for household chores

I secure babies happily on their mother’s backs

Am the perfect gift for new bride and new mother alike

Armed with proverbs, I am vehicle for communication between women

I exist for the comfort and convenience of a woman

But no no no make no mistake …

I am not here to please a man

And I certainly am not a seductress

Please don’t use me as an excuse to rape

Don’t hide behind me when you choose to abuse

You see

That’s what he said my Malume

The man who called himself my daddy’s best friend

Shared a cell with him on [Robben] Island for ten whole years

He said I wanted it

That my khanga said it

That with it I lured him to my bed

That with it I want you is what I said

But what about the NO I uttered with my mouth

Not once but twice

And the please no I said with my body

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

I reject that world

My world is a world where fathers protect and don’t rape

My world is a world where a woman can speak out

Without fear for her safety

My world is a world where no one, but no one is above the law

My world is a world where sex is pleasurable not painful

‘This is also my home’

Khuzwayo and her mother left the Netherlands for Tanzania, and was believed to have returned to SA in 2011, where they moved into a township in KwaZulu-Natal.

Upon their return, she tweeted: I am stronger, more determined and back to stay. I am here and deal with it. This is also my home. 

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