Review of Khwezi
Author: Redi Tlhabi
“I wanted her to know that I was writing, unapologetically, as a feminist who believed her” – Redi Tlhabi
Tlhabi is referring to the event which would hurt Kuzwayo into the South African spotlight under the nickname Khwezi – in the most brutal way possible: The rape Kuzwayo alleged she had suffered at the hands of Jacob Zuma.
But those hoping that Tlhabi’s book will give further salacious details about what really happened at Zuma’s Forest Hill home on the night of 2 November 2005 should look elsewhere. It is not Tlhabi’s purpose here to rehash the disputed events, or even dwell in great detail on the 2006 rape trial. Khwezi is about restoring to Kuzwayo what was taken from her over a decade ago: her name, her identity, and her life.
It is not easy to write the story of someone who has never previously trusted the public with her narrative. It is even less easy when that person dies in the course of the book being written. It gives yet another dimension of tragedy to Kuzwayo’s story that she would pass away from AIDS-related complications just months before the book was completed.
Tlhabi writes that Kuzwayo had intended to approach the book’s publication as a kind of rebirth into public life. She was ready to attend book launches with Tlhabi, and to be named and acknowledged fully in public in a way that she had rejected since the trial and its terrible aftermath. But it was not to be.
All we have, now, is Tlhabi’s deeply compassionate and thoughtful account of Kuzwayo: the woman who has previously been a kind of blank cipher at the centre of one of the most significant – and shameful – episodes in recent South African history.
What happened to Fezekile Kuzwayo should be a source of national shame. But in telling Kuzwayo’s story, and in considering the meaning of her life, Tlhabi has succeeded in restoring to Kuzwayo what was taken from her: her dignity; her voice; her name.
A definite great read 👌🏽