Book Review – Khwezi: the remarkable story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo

Khwezi: The remarkable story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo by Redi Tlhabi (Jonathan Ball) ISBN: 9781868427260

Khwezi - Book Review

This is not an easy book to read – not because it is not well written. It is. It is a story beautifully told. It is the subject matter that will break your heart.

I found that I had to read the book in fits and starts, because I ended up crying every time I picked it up. Watching a country being destroyed daily by Jacob Zuma, I can only imagine what it must be like to be the direct victim of his abuse, as Fezekile Kuzwayo was.

When Fezeka accused Zuma of rape, she laid charges against him. What followed best illustrates Zuma’s presidency. He played the victim and accused Fezeka of plotting against him. His supporters vilified her, burning down her family home, even mock stoning her outside the court. How people could put this abusive psychopath in the position they did, and still do, is South Africa’s shame.

This book tells the story of this remarkable woman who was abused in childhood, vilified by Zuma’s zombies, and exiled from her country. Redi Tlhabi’s writing is powerful and clear. The book shows us how patriarchal South Africa is and how women who are abused have the system so stacked against them that it’s overwhelming.

Khwezi, as she was known during the rape trial, died before the book could be published, but I think she would be pleased with the result. We finally have a chance to get to know the complex, beautiful woman she was. Redi Tlhabi has given her a long life, and through her book, she has shone the light on all voiceless, abused women.

The damage Zuma and the ANC have wrought should make them hang their heads in shame and beg Fezeka’s mother and all South African women for forgiveness. Zuma is one of patriarchy’s ugliest poster children and his tenure has set South Africa back in ways we can’t even begin to fathom.

This book is a must-read for every South African man and woman.

Amanda Patterson

Khwezi: The remarkable story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo by Redi Tlhabi (Jonathan Ball) ISBN: 9781868427260

We all remember the 2006 rape trial where South Africa’s then ex-deputy president, Jacob Zuma was charged with raping a woman called ‘Khwezi’.

Many were shocked when he was acquitted of the charge, but his supporters believed justice had been served.

How could a father figure who Khwezi called Malume (uncle)  – a man who was great friends and struggle veterans with her late father -suddenly even contemplate having sexual relations with her? How could his lawyers claim it was consensual: That Khwezi begged him for it?

This book examines the life of Khwezi, whose real name was Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo. She passed away from an HIV-related illness in 2016, just before the book was completed. Redi Tlhabi grew close to her through the authorship of the book and felt the moral obligation to share the story of the real woman behind the pseudonym.

It is an interesting read, commenting on Fezekile’s earlier life and her life after the trial until her recent death.

However, it is the general public apathy, the lack of justice for the victims of sexual abuse against women and children, that is the main thrust of the book. These instances of abuse go unreported and unpunished. The victims are often made to feel like it was their fault and are judged harshly by the public, whereas the perpetrators receive unwavering support and favour.

We all need to read this book to get a real sense of what happened to Khwezi, and what continues to happen to the women and children in our society at the hands of those powerful men who commit such obsene acts and account to nobody.

Amanda Blankfield-Koseff

Khwezi is a poignant and substantive story of a young girl’s life in exile. She is faced with rape, abuse, and manipulative politics. It is about a life shattered, never to be the same again and ends with her death.

Redi Tlhabi also depicts how women and children suffered rape and abuse in exile during the struggle against Apartheid and how they still suffer at the hands of people they trust.

Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, best known as Khwezi, is born to a politically active father, Judson Kuzwayo and Beauty, her mother. They are sent into exile. She is raped in ANC camps at the tender age of five and again at twelve and thirteen. She loses her father when she is ten. As she reaches adulthood, she learns that she is HIV positive.

She is also raped by a trusted “Uncle”, Jacob Zuma. She and her mother are forced to go back in exile because they face threats and rejection for accusing a prominent leader of rape. She loses the case and she finds herself in an abyss. The whole ordeal leaves her with psychological scars.

Khwezi evokes strong feelings.

Sinobukhosi Mpofu

Posted on: 18th September 2017