I struggled to write this letter to you for many reasons, one of them being that I did not want to be seen to be taking sides politically with your archrival, President Jacob Zuma.
That said, I write this letter because I am greatly concerned that you have not found it in your heart to openly and publicly apologise for what I considered to be an extremely misogynistic attack on Khwezi, Zuma’s rape accuser, while addressing 150 Cape Peninsula University of Technology students back in 2009, among them young women.
This is what you said, Julius, to a round of cheering and applause:
“When a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money. In the morning, that lady requested breakfast and taxi money.”
You concluded by saying: “You can’t ask for money from somebody who raped you.”
Then, at a separate meeting, you continued with your Khwezi-bashing crusade and told about 1 000 ANC Youth League volunteers in Nyanga that “Zuma was accused of raping a woman, although he did not rape the woman, aphiwe nje [he was just given the sexual favour], he got fired”.
We have come a long way since 2009, because since then you have parted ways with the ANC and formed your own political party – the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – where you are now the commander in chief and leader of, among others, some of the women who took part in the protest at the Independent Electoral Commission’s results operations centre when Zuma was giving his keynote address.
I also need to mention that Zuma’s response to the picket was remarkable.
He did not react negatively. Like a true statesman, he carried on with his speech and allowed the young women the freedom to protest, and air their views freely and openly.
My question to you at this juncture, especially after that dignified and peaceful protest by the four brave young women, is:
Do you still believe in that which you opined about Khwezi, or have you found your own road to Damascus?
Julius, at the time you said that I took you to the Equality Court because, in your eyes, I was an Uncle Tom, meaning that I went to the Equality Court only to appease my so-called white handlers or masters.
Do you still believe in that theory or have you since changed your mind?
Let me hasten to say, Julius, that all of these thoughts came to me while watching those four brave young women who, in my opinion, put patriarchy and misogyny on trial.
I am also curious to know if you have had a conversation with any of them about your actions relating to your undying love and support for Zuma back in 2009, and about those hurtful things you said about Khwezi.
Also, I am interested to know if those amazingly brave women have had an opportunity to engage with you about how you took the war against rape back to the Dark Ages with what you expressed – sentiments that would have affected not only Khwezi, but hundreds, if not thousands, of rape victims in this country.
Statistics show that one in three women get raped.
Your utterances against Khwezi would have instilled fear in thousands of women who are experiencing rape in their lives – fear that if they dare come out and say they have been raped, they won’t receive support and sympathy from men in their communities.
The ongoing stigmatisation of rape survivors should be a concern to you and all South Africans.
I hope that you will be man enough to look back and say with hindsight you should not have said what you said about Khwezi.
You owe it to Khwezi and all the women of South Africa to humble yourself and admit that your utterances were off the mark and that they were a setback in our fight against the abuse of women, especially rape.
Botha is a commissioner of the Commission for Gender Equality