#RememberKhwezi today more than ever


Ahmed Kathrada died and was buried this week. Part of the funeral and mourning invoked an open letter Kathrada wrote last year, calling on Comrade President Zuma to resign. With Ahmed Kathrada’s death, that letter turned into a warning from the grave. On Wednesday, Ahmed Kathrada was laid to rest. On Thursday, in the middle of the night, President Zuma did what he does. He went for his machine gun and “reshuffled” the cabinet, in particular Pravin Gordhan. Once again, the President has thrown South Africa into uproar and disarray. Once again. In October 2016, Fezekile Kuzwayo was laid to rest. Fezekile Kuzwayo was better known, to the public at least, as Khwezi. Remember the One in Nine Campaign, the purple shirts, the women? Remember the four young Black women, dressed in black, last August, who stood, in silent protest, before President Zuma, and held up five placards: “I am 1 in 3”, “#”, “10 years later”, “Khanga” and “Remember Khwezi”? Remember Khwezi? We should, today more than ever. Today, more than ever, #RememberKhwezi.

Remember how Jacob Zuma responded to Khwezi? He sang umshini wam, Bring My Machine Gun. As Pumla Dineo Gqola has written, “When Jacob Zuma sang the hugely popular struggle toyi-toyi song `umshini wam’ when he was charged with rape, he understood the power of heroic masculinity, having previously embodied it himself and know how to reference it to shame Khwezi … Khwezi becomes the enemy and safe to treat in any way because she is an enemy that has been marked with associations that come from apartheid. All righteous, freedom-loving people are reminded of the wound of apartheid, incited to anger, always ready because the apartheid memory is too fresh in all of us, so that Khwezi becomes possible to burn. It is therefore not a huge leap from seeing her as a political enemy … to chanting `burn the bitch.”

And that strategy worked … up to a point. It didn’t work with Khwezi herself, who remained steadfast and revolutionary to the very end. It didn’t work with the courageous women of the One in Nine campaign. But it did work. Jacob Zuma walked free, while Khwezi and her sister comrades had to look over their shoulders more than once. Zuma has gone on to govern with his machine gun, or at least his love song to the machine gun, always already at the beck and call.

So, today’s tumult has everything to do with Pravin Gordhan, nuclear deals, state capture, and much more. Today’s tumult reminds us we should re-read Ahmed Kathrada’s letter from last year, and we should study it, discuss it, and share it, and make it part of a popular education campaign. And even more, we should remember the four young Black women who last year dared us to remember Khwezi, and we should remember the courageous women of the One In Nine Campaign, who dared to break the silence and challenged us to stand with and listen to the women who refused to shut up. And today, more than ever, we should remember the revolutionary Khwezi. #RememberKhwezi

Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo also known as Khwezi


(Photo Credit 1: Simphiwe Nkwali / TimesLive) (Photo Credit 2: TimesLive)

#RememberKhwezi: This woman was a revolutionary in the truest sense of the word

A million thoughts running and sprinting across my mind. Fezekile-otherwise known by her nom de guerre ”Khwezi” transitioned from this life two days ago. I have been numb, angry, grief stricken and like many of us, left with a sense of injustice, shame and guilt. This woman was a revolutionary in the truest sense of the word. She sacrificed her relative youth and life aspirations and laid down her life, for a truth that could not be contained in life and will not be crushed by death. I wrote and mobilised along with many other women across this country, many of whom were abused, spat at and received death threats for supporting Fezekile. I often wondered whether I could have done differently, more, been more vigourous and robust in protecting and loving Fezekile both before her exile and after her return. I am ashamed to have been reminded to become ‘un-numb’ when the four young activists, who at the IEC 2 months ago, jerked me out of my sleep walk.

I have sometimes thought of myself as brave. Fezekile was much more than brave. Bravery in fact looks like her and cowered in her presence. She deserves to be remembered as more than ”an accuser”. She was in fact the one who accused us as her name was taken, her face obscured, her mortal life in danger and her being displaced. Her fortitude quietly accuses and reminds me of the value of life, the cost of being steadfast, the disregard of women’s bodies, the ongoing rape of our decency & solidarity, the shame of silent forgetting. Those who knew her speak of her great humour, her deep compassion, her zest for life and learning.

She is a reminder of the brokenness of this country, the neglect of many children of struggle, the violations of trust and our complicity with masculine entitlement. But more than that, she is a reflection of what one day I hope to be. Truly Brave. Brave at all costs for the truth.

To quote Nawal El-Saadawi :

“You are a savage and dangerous woman.
I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous.”

(Photo Credit: The Sowetan)