Ingeborg Lichtenberg’s #MeToo statement

Ingeborg Lichtenberg. Picture: Supplied
Ingeborg Lichtenberg. Picture: Supplied

You can read the full story of all the women who have come forward with #MeToo claims of predatory sexual encounters with acclaimed film maker Khalo Matabane here.

This all makes me feel very sad. I am even sad for Khalo because I looked up to him. He’s so talented and yet on the other hand he’s been throwing that away.

It was a long time ago, in 2007 or 2008. He was staying at Ikhaya Lodge in Cape Town and the hotel was still new. I had called Khalo to set up a lunch because I was trying to get into the industry, make contacts, learn about funding, get work.

I was in my early 40s at the time, older than him. I had worked for many years as a journalist and was at Reuters when I was awarded a Fullbright scholarship and went to New York to get my MFA in film. I was the top student in each year of my studies and came back home and did about four documentaries as a one-woman show for the SABC, but the funding died. But there were people in the independent industry surviving, like Khalo, and I was desperate to break in.

He agreed to a meeting, he was staying at the hotel where we met. As soon as we had greeted, given each other friendly hugs, he tried to kiss me, but with an open mouth, basically trying to stick his tongue in my mouth. I immediately pulled away. I couldn’t believe it.

But I was determined to learn something from him so I just pretended it didn’t happen. I suggested we order something. We ordered tea I think and while we were chit-chatting, he came right out and said that he wants to have sex with me. That we should go to his room. I said no way, that’s not what I’m here for! I’m here to ask you for help.

I was thinking, what just happened? This is crazy, here I am basically asking him for help and this is how he responds. Surely that didn’t just happen.

Then he backed off and insisted I see his room just so I could see how nice the hotel was. I said no, why? I don’t want to have sex with you. He promised he wouldn’t try anything, that I need to see how beautiful the room is. I’m thinking this is so off and I so don’t want to do this, but let’s just humour him so that we can get all this sex stuff out of the way and talk work. So we went upstairs and I stood in the doorway and peered in and said the room is nice and then left. He followed me downstairs and I tried to carry on our so-called meeting. It was so awkward, I didn’t know what to do. I was caught up smiling, hoping to still get help from him. But clearly work was not on the agenda, and I left. I was shaking because I felt so hurt that he could so easily disregard me as a woman and a film maker – and the industry was already so daunting.

Then the next day he called to apologise for his behaviour. He blamed it on the medication he was on. So he knew it was wrong even though now he is saying he is being wrongly accused by women. Obviously his apology meant nothing.

I even wondered if it was me, my outfit, the way I behaved. What did I do wrong for him to think he could have sex with me? But on the other hand, I was thinking at least that’s not as bad as the time I was date-raped in 1990 by a South African Defence Force doctor while covering a story in an army camp. I never reported that one either because I just knew going through the interrogation of my honesty would be worse than the rape. Nobody was going to believe me.

So with Khalo I never thought of telling anyone in the industry. Especially because he’s friends with many of them and he is king. Even today, the way he is being protected just makes me want to cry. The rot in this industry reaches far beyond one man! This kind of thing happens precisely because he’s part of that close-knit incestuous group in the industry who will always rally around their own – as you can see by the responses of his cronies like Rehad Desai and Eric Miyeni to me on Facebook.

And now that all these other horrific stories are coming out, I think: I shouldn’t have said anything, what’s happened to the other women is so much worse, so gut-wrenching – that’s how intense the rape culture in our country is. It’s really just f---ing untenable!

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