'He worked hard for me', domestic worker says of human rights lawyer

2017-03-17 10:44
Gloria Kente (in blue) with Peter Williams (in black). (Supplied)

Gloria Kente (in blue) with Peter Williams (in black). (Supplied)

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Cape Town - After suffering the humiliation of being spat on and called the k-word by her employer's boyfriend, Gloria Kente felt stripped of her dignity but was forced to continue working because she needed an income.

But attorney Peter Williams fought for her and made sure justice was served, not charging her a cent for his efforts, the retired domestic worker said.

"When he heard my story, he said he would work hard and make sure the man was punished. He delivered on his promise," Kente, 53, told News24.

She felt broken by the news of Williams's death on Wednesday after a long battle with colon cancer.

"Mr Williams was a good man. He didn't have to do anything for me, but he wanted to."

André van Deventer was in 2015 sentenced to two years house arrest and ordered to pay damages of R50 000 for grabbing Kente by her clothes and spitting in her face at the Table View home he shared with his then girlfriend Mariechin Pienaar in 2013.

No lies

Kente had told the court that when she asked Van Deventer to look after Pienaar's child while she took a shower, she heard him shouting that they were "paying this kaffir R2 400 to look after the child".

She had worked for the Table View family for nine years and lived with them.

Rural Development and Land Reform Deputy Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha heard of what had happened and tracked her down.

"Mr Skwatsha referred me to Mr Williams. When I told this lawyer my whole story during consultations, he told me he would take my case and all I needed to do was to tell the truth," Kente recalled.

"He was a very religious man and said I mustn't tell any lies. He said: 'Gloria, I will talk for you, it's God's will that I must be here. You are not alone, but if you lie then nothing will go well."

Williams, a struggle stalwart, often did pro bono work for victims of human rights violations and was highly respected in legal circles for helping those who could not afford representation.

'He told me to keep pushing'

He studied law at the University of the Western Cape and, with George Bizos, represented the victims of the 1989 Athlone Early Learning Centre bombing at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

He started his career at the offices of the late Judge Essa Moosa, himself a former human rights lawyer.

Kente's case dragged on for two long years, she said.

"Many times I just wanted to throw in the towel, but Mr Williams told me not to leave it, to keep on pushing. And he worked so hard for me, sitting up until 03:00 to prepare for my case."

After the case's conclusion, she still kept in contact with Williams, Kente said.

"One day I phoned him and I could hear he sounded funny. I asked him what was wrong and he told me he was in hospital. I don't have a car, but I made arrangements to go and see him.

"When I visited, my heart was broken. He smiled at me and introduced me to his wife. He didn't look [well].

"I will always remember this strong, healthy man with whom I couldn't keep up when we walked to court together. I was not okay after I saw him."

'He helped people'

She said she felt "broken" after hearing of his death.

"This was a good man. He helped me and didn't ask for anything in return. He was so good to me."

In 2014 Kente lost her job with the Table View family after they said they could no longer afford to pay her.

Since then she has been volunteering for a domestic workers' union and now lives in Pelican Park.

Skwatsha visited Williams's wife Annastasia at their Pinelands home on Thursday morning, along with Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown and ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs.

He retold Kente's story to Annastasia, whose eyes teared up as she recalled meeting Kente during Williams's hospital stay.

"I took the lady to Peter and justice was done," Skwatsha said.

"That's who he was – he helped people."

Read more on:    anc  |  cape town  |  human rights

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