So you want to #RememberKhwezi? Here is what you need to know


Khwezi, the woman who accused President Jacob Zuma of rape in 2005, has died. “It is with our deepest sorrow that the Kuzwayo family announces the passing of our daughter Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo,” her family said in a statement released to the media.

She was described as a “loving soul”.

Why was she in the news recently? 

After the official announcement of the 2016 municipal election results on 6 August 2016, President Zuma’s address  was quickly disrupted by a group of four activists staging a silent protest, holding placards bearing the words “Remember Khwezi”, the well-known pseudonym of the woman who accused Zuma of rape in 2005.

Zuma was charged with rape in December 2005, and found not guilty on 8 May 2006 by the Johannesburg High Court.

Who is Khwezi?

Khwezi, which means Star, is the daughter of an ANC member who was imprisoned on Robben Island with Zuma for ten years. He died in a car accident in 1985.

As a child, Khwezi lived in exile in Zambia and Swaziland, and moved back to South Africa in 1990.  After her father’s death she met Jacob Zuma, who was a friend of her father’s, and grew very close to him, regarding him as a father figure.

In 1999 she discovered that she was HIV positive, and thereafter become an Aids activist.

Khwezi, who identifies as a lesbian, faced an incredibly gruelling, invasive and traumatic cross-examination during the trial, as well as a physical examination to determine whether rape had actually occurred.

Zuma infamously said that he had a shower after having sex with Khwezi. Hence Zapiro’s shower head on every cartoon related to Zuma.


Many Zuma supporters were actively threatening to her and she faced slut-shaming, victim-blaming and accusations of dishonesty and sabotage.  She was accused of “tempting” Zuma by wearing a traditional Khanga and texting him, and had her HIV status and sexual orientation used against her in the trial.

Khwezi stated that Zuma, who had denied the accusation, had offered to marry her as a reparation, which her mother also knew about.

Raped multiple times

During the trial, a draft copy of a memoir that she had been writing came into possession of the defence lawyer Kemp J Kemp.  It was discovered that Khwezi had been raped multiple times by many men within the ANC, the first time at age 5.  One of the rapes had caused a pregnancy which she then terminated.  Two of the accused rapists had six month’s pay removed by the ANC exile court for raping her as a minor.

Khwezi stated during the trial that she saw Zuma as a father-figure, and that his sexual advances had shocked her which is why she froze during the incident. She also said she would not have allowed for unprotected sex. The judge, Willem van der Merwe, who acquitted Zuma, refused to believe that Khwezi did not want Zuma’s sexual advances, accusing her of a history of false rape accusations.  In the end, the encounter was deemed consensual.

After the trial and outcome, a close friend arranged for Khwezi and her mother to move to The Netherlands, where they were granted asylum in 2007 where they lived for some years and where she wrote and performed a poetry piece about rape.  The two then moved to Tanzania and finally relocating to KwaZulu-Natal, where she now works and lives in a township.

Khwezi was silenced by South Africa’s justice system

In a country with some of the worst rape statistics in the world, her forced silencing and literal exile left a mark on South Africa’s fight for justice for rape victims and survivors.  However, 2016 has been a year of anger, or defiance against this system, of change.  The #RUReferenceList protests, #WeBelieveYou campaign and the very public, very real protest right in front of our president is only the beginning.  As Pumla Gqola said earlier this week at the university currently known as Rhodes “This is the time of feminist rage. Feminist rage is as legitimate as feminist love.”

Featured image via Twitter

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  1. #1in3 Hashtag Exposes The Pervasiveness of Rape In South Africa

    […] Khwezi is the pseudonym of the woman who accused Zuma of rape in 2005. After a long trial which made headlines when it was revealed that Khwezi is HIV positive and that the president took a shower after the incident as a preventive measure, Zuma was found not guilty. After the trial, Khwezi and her mother relocated to the Netherlands as a result of the threatening, slut-shaming, and victim-blaming reactions to her accusation. […]

  2. pritam says

    why do you describe as sick.. as in sick of nonsense.. or are you down with something..

  3. WeBelieveYou says

    An acquittal is NOT the same as a not guilty verdict.

  4. Valikhebele says

    Rape is not a good thing in our society , but why Her!!? All her . Histrory of being raped by ANC individuals its her, rape by Zuma , its her, Her child came as a result of rape. Are you telling me that she never had any sexual partner in life. All of hers was rape after rape.Something is wrong here l tell you.

  5. Denzel says

    There is one person who will not be here to see Zuma fall. All of South Africa know her name. Khwezi passed away last year before she could get her justice. I hope these words remind you of her. I hope that black people and white people both remember, that while we may not have stood together for every protest, and while we may all have failed her before, now we stand together for Khwezi.

    Remembering Khwezi

    He said your body seduced him
    That your kanga said you wanted him
    He said your eyes, they lured him
    And you, your voice said no

    Malume was what you called him
    A second father you thought him
    A man you could trust, you believed him
    And yet, he hurt you so

    He said he didn’t rape you
    His people, they wanted to burn you
    He said he took a shower
    And you, you felt such shame

    You cried and left your country
    Their words still kept you company
    They treated you as guilty
    But you, were not to blame

    And now the people are angry
    He’s hurt so very many
    There’s outrage and there’s fury
    There’s seething and bloodthirst

    There’s talk of how to hurt him
    There are those who want to burn him
    May we never forget to remember
    It was you that he hurt first

    In memory of Fezeka Kuzwayo

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