'Remember Khwezi' protesters praised in Parliament

Cape Town – Opposition parties on Thursday paid tribute to the four women who staged a silent protest against President Jacob Zuma at the election results announcement.

The DA, EFF, and IFP saluted the women for their bravery, while condemning the ANC’s reaction to the protest, during a Women’s Day event in the National Assembly. It was held under the theme "Women united in moving SA forward".

MPs flung insults and shouted down other speakers in a relatively empty House. Only a couple of ministers were in attendance. There were more people in the public gallery than MPs in the benches below. 

Party after party flayed ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, accusing her of leading the defence of Zuma against the silent protesters.

The women disrupted Zuma’s speech at the IEC’s results centre in Pretoria on Saturday, August 6. They held up placards that read "10 years later", "Remember Khwezi", "I am one in 3", and "Khanga". They were referring to a Zuma’s rape trial in 2006. He was acquitted of raping a then 31-year-old HIV-positive family friend, known only as Khwezi.

Zuma’s bodyguards shoved them out of the hall.

'Not in our name'

EFF MP Phumza Ntobongwana said some female leaders of society had gone to great lengths to demonise women who stood up and challenged men.

"These women leaders had nothing to say, nothing to contribute when four brave women stood up in silent protest against rape culture at the IEC. This speaks volumes about the direction we are taking as South Africa," she said.

No South African female leader protected Khwezi when Zuma was accused of raping her, she said.

"We must stand up and say, 'not in our name'. We must stand up against men like Mr Zuma and women like Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane."

DA MP Denise Robinson called for women to unite against rape culture. She said the ANC Women’s League did not support Khwezi at all, and instead helped her leave the country.

"The ANC Women’s League is clearly not an advocate for justice for women, and instead reduced itself to placing women issues on the altar of patriarchal sacrifice. Why was this silent reminder hysterically denounced by the president of the ANCWL, along with two other ministers?" Robinson asked.

She berated the ANC’s women leaders for standing by while the protesters were brusquely removed from the venue.

'Four brave women'

IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe said neither government nor Parliament, but the four women, had given the fight against gender violence a dramatic boost this year.

"But it came from a silent protest of four brave women at the IEC centre. Without uttering a word, their message was clear. We can no longer afford to ignore the rape culture in our country. We honour those women today, and each and every victim of rape and violence."

The beauty of their bravery stood in sharp contrast to the behaviour of some of the country’s female leaders, who almost came to blows over the protest, she said.

Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu praised women for becoming "forces to be reckoned with in the country". South Africa was a better place to live than it had been in 1994, she said.


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