Remembering Khwezi: The life and death of Zuma's rape accuser

Remembering Khwezi: The life and death of Zuma's rape accuser

"Khwezi", the woman who accused President Jacob Zuma of rape in 2005, died on Saturday after battling a long illness. She was 42.

Remember Khwezi

In a statement issued to the media on Sunday announcing her passing, her family described her as "a loving soul".

They also requested the space to mourn her privately, before laying her to rest.

Statement by the Kuzwayo family:


The story of Khwezi is both a well-known and tragic one.

Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo became known as “Khwezi” in the media to protect her identity during the Jacob Zuma rape trial. 

She  was the daughter of late MK veteran Judson Kuzwayo - a friend of Zuma's who was detained alongside him in Robben Island for 10 years. Khwezi had grown-up around Zuma and other ANC veterans, and regarded the man who would later assume the highest seat in government as an "uncle."

In 1990, she was diagnosed with HIV, and became an Aids activist.

In 2005, Khwezi alleged that then-ANC deputy president Zuma had raped her. He was later acquitted of all charges - after it was revealed he had sex with the HIV-infected woman, who identified as a lesbian. 

During the trial Zuma alleged that the sex had been consensual, adding that Khwezi had "asked for it." 

He also claimed to have taken a shower after intercourse with her, leading to an onslaught of satirical cartoons about his views surrounding HIV/ Aids prevention.

During the trial, Khwezi further alleged rape - from a young age - by other ANC veterans. 

While the Zuma acquittal was met with outrage by anti-rape groups and individuals alike, pro-Zuma supporters vilified the woman. 

There were calls to “Burn the bitch”, and Khwezi's photo was circulated outside the courts - and burnt. She was humiliated in the media and on social media, which eventually forced her and her mother to seek asylum in the Netherlands in 2007.

In her application for asylum, Khwezi claimed she no longer felt safe in South Africa, and was being threatened by Zuma supporters.

Soon after arriving in the Netherlands, Khwezi performed a poem at the Afrovibes Festival, in which she made her views on the rape acquittal public for the first time.

She took to the stage dressed in a khanga, the sarong-type African garment she had been wearing when Zuma had sex with her. In the poem she referred to a man who called himself “my daddy’s best friend.”

“He said I wanted it; That my khanga said it; That with it I lured him to my bed; That with it I want you is what I said; But what about the NO I uttered with my mouth; Not once but twice... My world is a world where sex is pleasurable not painful,” it read.

Full excerpt of the poem:

After returning to South Africa in 2012, Khwezi again gained prominence in August this year.

Read also: KZN women's group speaks out on "Khwezi" silent protest

During the announcement of the 2016 municipal election results, four female protesters staged a silent demonstration at the IEC results centre in Pretoria - in-front of Zuma as he delivered his speech. 

The silent protest, called #RememberKhwezi, was to commemorate the woman - a decade after Zuma's acquittal.

The response to Khwezi's death on social media has been overwhelming. 

Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils - the man implicated by the ANC as the person who trumped up Zuma's rape charge - expressed sadness at her passing. 

Read also: Ronnie Kasrils' defamation case in court today

“This is so devastating and incredibly tragic. She was a lovely human being who lived a lonely life after many years of hell,” he said.

“One recalls the abuse to her, and those who castigated her should hang their heads in shame. She looked after her mother through this difficult period and came back home only about a year ago. I am sure the country needs to understand what brave and courageous women like her go through."

The DA and ACDP on Sunday said it was a pity that she had died before seeing justice.

Additional reporting by

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