When Khwezi accused then-Deputy President Jacob Zuma of rape in 2006, it plunged the ruling party into scandal. It also revealed the ugly cracks in the judicial system, and its failures when prosecuting rape. Humiliated, harassed and shunned, Khwezi was up against a political power that proved to be too great. When Zuma was acquitted, she was forced to leave the country, and the woman behind the headlines remained shrouded in obscurity. Until now.

In her new book, Redi Tlhabi tells the story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, alias Khwezi. Readers have shown overwhelming support, with the effect of keeping the name and the story alive, after a decade of near erasure.

fezekile

Redi Tlhabi (left). Khwezi cover (right) Getty Images

 

Just months before Redi finished the book, Fezekile passed away from complications due to Aids. She didn’t live to see the crowds of people turning out for the book’s launch, or the massive support on social media.  At the Johannesburg book launch, hundreds of people turned out to hear Redi speak, and the Cape Town launch was packed to capacity – people were standing on the pavement outside the Book Lounge on Roeland Street.

 

Redi Tlhabi has made it clear that the aim of the book was not to martyr Fezekile or to shame President Zuma. On the contrary, the book was an exercise in telling the story of a woman who was robbed of the opportunity to tell it herself during the trial, and in the time that followed. The narrative that was created around her during the rape trial was unfair, and the book seeks to restore some level of justice for Fezekile, and indeed, to the rest of her family, who carried many burdens during the trial and its aftermath.

 

The turnout in Johannesburg was testament that despite all efforts to silence her and erase her from public thought, Fezekile’s memory and her story endures in the minds of many people.