Dear Julius Malema,
It’s now 10 years since the Khwezi and President Jacob Zuma’s rape trial and shower saga, yet I still can’t let go of your reckless words at the time that must have pierced Khwezi’s heart like a sword.
All she wanted was for the world to believe that the uncle she had trusted had allegedly raped her. Like so many rape survivors, she wanted not to be called a liar.
Instead, in your vast wisdom as a mid-20-something-year-old you declared that she had a “nice time” because “when a woman didn’t enjoy it, she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money.”
What all of that boils down to, is that you clearly implied she was lying.
Yes, I understand that you wouldn’t dream of defending Zuma for anything any more and you were merely fulfilling your role at the time as a blunt tool to shield your elders, but I can’t recall you ever properly apologising. Even when you had the opportunity recently – after what were understood to be some of the EFF’s female members spontaneously taking the decision to ask South Africa to #RememberKhwezi – you didn’t set the record straight. This week, when Ronnie Kasrils relived his trauma at how Khwezi had phoned him in distress to tell him, “Uncle Ronnie, Jacob Zuma has raped me”, you didn’t clear your conscience, and you didn’t set the record straight.
When you hurled those insults at “the lady”, I was still a junior reporter, and I was myself battling with the trauma of having suffered rape.
It was only when forced by the Equality Court to apologise after Sonke Gender Justice took you head-on, and more than three years after the trial no less, that your coerced apology was: “I want to say sorry to the lady and to the Sonke Gender, and I commit to pay them that R50 000 and to pay legal fees for that case.”
At the time, I was also fighting the litany of canned phrases – just like yours – that leave so many rape survivors and victims crippled and defenceless: “You lied; you asked for it; you enjoyed it; you deserved it; your dress code lured him; I assumed she wanted it…”
You never even apologised to People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) and Sonke Gender Justice in person. To rub salt into the wound, after being found guilty of hate speech and discrimination by the Equality Court, you lodged an appeal against the ruling. You were also later quoted as arrogantly saying, “I deliberately refuse to pay the R50 000 as a matter of principle. They can attach all my property” and that “every piece of legislation will be used to fight this court order”.
According to Sonke, you paid “that R50 000” to Powa and issued your reluctant apology only 18 months later and only after the NGO was forced to send the sheriff to your home to attach your property – a full 17 months after you had been ordered by the court to do it.
You could have and still can do better. I’m sure Khwezi, and all our other rape victims and survivors, would have liked you to do better.
When you hurled those insults at “the lady”, I was still a junior reporter, and I was myself battling with the trauma of having suffered rape. At the time, I was also fighting the litany of canned phrases – just like yours – that leave so many rape survivors and victims crippled and defenceless: “You lied; you asked for it; you enjoyed it; you deserved it; your dress code lured him; I assumed she wanted it…”
Words like yours rape women a second time, a third time, a thousand times. They leave us defenceless and disheartened. The dignity of being sympathised with, to be allowed to simply be a victim and not be victimised over and over again – in this country, is often too much to ask for. As the well-known quote goes: a tongue like a sharp knife kills you, but without blood.
I still think, Mr Malema, that you just don’t “get it” when it comes to rape. Whenever allegations of rape have surfaced even in your own party, what have you done?
In 2013, when accusations of a 2009 gang rape of a sex worker resurfaced against EFF Gauteng MPL Patrick Sindane and Silunko Mabona, you were quoted warning EFF members “to keep their zips closed so that the party is not dragged into a rape case”.
A sex worker had cried rape, but what seemed to concern you more was your party’s good name being dragged through the mud. Again, you did not think about the alleged victim.
It’s inevitable that someone in the EFF will be a rapist at some point. Someone, somewhere, always is. Don’t take it personally.
Currently, another case of rape is being heard in a Bloemfontein court against EFF member Willy Tshabalala. Tshabalala resigned from his position as an EFF MPL in the Free State after his case made it to court for allegedly raping his 14-year-old niece – twice – and, later, another 19-year-old relative.
I haven’t heard you admonishing this barbaric act. We need to be realistic and fair. Rape is a social epidemic. It’s inevitable that someone in the EFF will be a rapist at some point. Someone, somewhere, always is. Don’t take it personally. Just because a man puts on a red beret doesn’t mean he automatically becomes a saint. And just because he might rape someone with that red beret still on his head doesn’t mean the EFF didn’t do anything wrong.
Please don’t try to make excuses for these people, Mr Malema. Don’t think telling them to “keep their zips closed” is somehow going to magically fix our “1 in 3” problem.
At one point, you were criss-crossing the country to apologise for your former self. You even hunted down Thabo Mbeki’s mother to say sorry.
Now, because it suits you politically, you are allegedly in a “fight for Khwezi”. Really? Are you now?
Fighting against Zuma is not the same thing as fighting for Khwezi. You first need to acknowledge her pain, as well as that of the many rape victims and survivors you raped all over again with your words during those heady days when you were ready to kill for Zuma – and then you can fight whatever battles you want to.
Yours, from an Anti-Rape Freedom Fighter,