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'Uncle Ronnie‚ Jacob Zuma has raped me'

07 November 2017 - 14:17 By Timeslive
Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo
Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo

This is an extract from the book‚ A Simple Man – Kasrils and the Zuma Enigma‚ written by ANC veteran and former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils.

Kasrils will be unpacking his tell-all book‚ published by Jacana‚ on Tuesday evening in Johannesburg.

Below is an extract‚ Chapter 13‚ titled: Call from Fezeka.

Johannesburg‚ 4 November 2005

‘Uncle Ronnie‚ Jacob Zuma has raped me‚’ was the call received on my mobile phone. The woman added‚ ‘This is Fezeka.’ My body geared to the shock as though someone was pointing a gun at me: blood ran cold‚ neck hairs prickled‚ throat turned dry‚ mind stuttered.

While the young woman simply used the name ‘Jacob Zuma’ – ‘Jacob Zuma has raped me’ – she maintained the formal ‘Uncle Ronnie’ in addressing me. But the respectful title ‘uncle’ did not grace Jacob Zuma’s name‚ then nor ever again. This spoke volumes from a cultural point of view. Without that title‚ Zuma’s name‚ in the mouth of a younger woman‚ sounded strange‚ shocking‚ almost naked‚ stripped of his clothing‚ his dignity. Although the voice was steady and strong‚ almost flat and unemotional‚ the unadorned terminology pointed to someone who had thrown respectful convention to the winds and was extremely angry and deadly serious.

‘Uncle Ronnie‚ Jacob Zuma has raped me’ reverberated in my brain. Was this for real? Was I being set up? Was my phone tapped? Sinister spooks listening in‚ waiting to catch me out about who knew what? My humanity overcame feelings of fright and flight‚ and concern for the young woman overrode my fears.

‘Fezeka‚’ I heard myself enquiring hoarsely‚ ‘are you OK?’

‘I’m going to charge him.’

‘What do you mean “raped”?’

‘Jacob Zuma raped me last night.’

‘Where?’

‘At his house in Forest Town. I visited for dinner and he invited me to stay the night. And he raped me.’

‘But did anyone see that? Do you have a witness?’ I almost blurted‚ and immediately felt stupid‚ for I was struggling to comprehend.

‘No‚’ she said‚ still keeping remarkably calm. ‘The others were all asleep‚ including his daughter. We all had dinner together. He invited me to see him after that in his room‚ for a chat. And he raped me.’

‘Have you seen a doctor? Are you OK‚ eh‚ like any injuries?’ ‘No physical harm to speak of‚ but he forced himself on me.’ ‘The doctor gave you a full examination and you’re OK?’ ‘Am OK. But I am angry.’

I was getting a hold on the story‚ but could not be sure it was rape. She said he forced himself on her: was she confused‚ mistaken? I cursed myself: don’t think like the conventional male! Like everyone else‚ I knew Zuma’s liking for female flesh‚ but rape? That accusation as far as I knew had never been flung at him. He certainly could get by on his natural charm‚ or so I thought.

Ronnie Kasrils.
Ronnie Kasrils.
Image: The Times / Alon Skuy

I was relieved she was not physically harmed. She was over thirty years old‚ an adult; she had been medically examined‚ so there was already a doctor involved. That was reassuring.

‘What next‚ Fezeka?’

It appeared she was on her way to lay a rape charge at a police station in Johannesburg‚ and that she was being accompanied by some women from what sounded like a rape crisis organisation.

That was serious but a relief‚ for it let me off the hook‚ I must admit. I asked her why she had called me and she simply explained that she wanted me to be aware of what had happened. I was still in an ambivalent state‚ feeling torn between human concern for her and my political position. I sensed I should keep her at arm’s length for her own good.

For her own good? Was I honest or just minding my own interest? There was an icy hand at my heart. Buck up‚ I thought. Was I doing the right thing or was I taking the coward’s way out?

I asked her what she wanted me to do; and she replied ‘nothing’.

She just wanted me to be aware.

Maybe I was a bit too studied in my reply‚ which was something like: ‘Well‚ Fezeka‚ you’re an adult and certainly must decide what’s in your interests. I would like to be of help‚ but if I got involved it would politicise the issue‚ given the rift that has developed between Zuma and me.’ I almost visualised the flapping ears of those possibly bugging the call.

She said she understood and left me to agonise over the situation as I was being driven to a function.

‘Did you get the time that call came through?’ I asked my protector sitting next to my driver. He confirmed my own observation. The call was made on Friday‚ 4 November 2005‚ at exactly 10.40 a.m. I sensed I should make a note of that.

Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo‚ who soon came to be known at large as Khwezi‚ was the daughter of a struggle comrade with whom Zuma and I had worked in Swaziland back in the 1980s. His name was Judson Kuzwayo and in those days he went by his MK name of Mthethwa. It was he who was supposed to have picked Zuma and me up near the border with Mozambique on that night I sprained my ankle.

Baba and Homeboy stole into Swaziland on operational missions and often called at the Kuzwayo home‚ always at night‚ to avoid the eyes of prying neighbours. Invariably exhausted‚ they would enjoy home-cooked meals prepared by Fezeka’s mother‚ Beauty Sibongile Kuzwayo. Judson Kuzwayo was a skinny man with a narrow face and high cheekbones who spoke in a staccato manner‚ business-like and to the point.

We all had dinner together. He invited me to see him after that in his room‚ for a chat. And he raped me.
Fezeka

He and Homeboy enjoyed knocking back a good few rounds of Klipdrift brandy and Coke while relaxing in the sitting room‚ talking politics and assessing the latest security situation. After serving a ten-year sentence on Robben Island with Zuma‚ with whom he had been arrested in 1963‚ he got a job as a researcher at Natal University in Durban and so he was erudite‚ well read and thoughtful. He commanded a clandestine committee based in Swaziland‚ with another ex-Durban couple‚ Ivan and Ray Pillay‚ as his closest confidants.

They had excellent contact with that city and indeed the Natal province‚ which included an internal machinery‚ codenamed Providence‚ of which Pravin Gordhan was a most innovative and reliable head. They had worked closely with Zuma and Judson Kuzwayo in Durban in the mid-1970s after Zuma’s and Kuzwayo’s release‚ until they were redeployed outside the country.

Baba and Homeboy would often engage young Fezeka‚ during her early school years‚ in light conversation. They were both uncles to her‚ and she looked forward to seeing them whenever they visited. Fezeka would run errands for them‚ find newspapers and whatever else they needed‚ candy for Baba who had a sweet tooth‚ ice cream for Homeboy. They showered her with both these treats. Homeboy was on hand to assist her with her school work. Both parents were invariably at work during the day‚ and so‚ whether Homeboy and Baba were together or on their own‚ it was Fezeka who was their minder.

They would be in and out of the household for just a few days‚ observing the rule of never staying in the same place for long. They were family‚ and the young girl was attached to them as her own true uncles‚ although she was under strict instructions not to tell any of her friends about their visits. When they were staying in the house she was forbidden to bring friends home. She showed a remarkable understanding in this regard and never let out the secret.

People in Swaziland well knew of the undercover war being fought from their tiny kingdom and of the killings and shootouts that often took place. The young girl was faithful to her uncles whom she swore to protect. She once saw a bullet-ridden corpse in a township garden nearby and heard the man had been an ANC freedom fighter‚ like her father and uncles. Nothing would lead her to betray them. When she had not seen them for some months‚ she would begin nagging her dad: ‘Pappa‚ please Pappa‚ when are my uncles coming to visit?’

Around 1985‚ after a series of brutal assassinations by apartheid hit squads‚ Swaziland became too hot for the Kuzwayos. The ANC deployed Judson and his family to Zimbabwe. He was to die tragically in a car crash later that year and his death left both mother and daughter bereft.

Sometime in February 2005 a young media assistant in my ministry‚ Kimmy Msibi‚ informed me that Fezeka Kuzwayo was around and would very much like to see me. I was delighted. Kimmy was of the same age and background as Fezeka. She had always been close to Fezeka‚ had similarly grown up in exile‚ and her parents‚ like the Kuzwayos‚ had worked with Zuma and me.

The young girl was faithful to her uncles whom she swore to protect.

Kimmy explained that Fezeka was working in Pretoria in the social welfare sector. She was bright‚ outgoing and openly lesbian. She had publicly declared herself HIV positive‚ and actively campaigned on both issues. I arranged for the two of them to come and have tea.

Fezeka strode in with a confident air. Unlike Kimmy‚ who retained her child-like petiteness‚ she had emerged as a well-built young adult‚ strong-boned and athletic‚ with a jauntiness about her and a fine smile. She was simply dressed in a white blouse and black slacks.

As we drank tea‚ we chatted about the old days and joked about Zuma’s and my visits. When we spoke about her father and mother‚ a note of sadness crept in. She clearly pined for her father while Mama was not very well. She lived in KwaMashu in Durban and Fezeka helped her as best she could. Inquiring about her own life‚ I was impressed at how open she was about her sexual choice and HIV status.

I asked if she was on antiretrovirals‚ and thought about President Mbeki’s beliefs about the causes of HIV when she criticised the medication‚ holding up her palms and saying they had turned black; she had greater faith‚ she said‚ in homeopathic remedies. This brought her to the topic for which it appeared she mainly wished to see me.

She was seeking to study alternative medicine in Australia and was looking for a grant and seeking to raise funds. I promised to discuss possibilities and obtain an estimate of living costs from the Australian High Commission. I would also investigate the possibilities of raising funds through her late father’s former colleagues‚ many of whom were in government.

I consequently wrote to half a dozen of them‚ including Tokyo Sexwale‚ who had become a well-off businessman. He responded positively. I informed Fezeka sometime during the year but did not hear from her until the telephone call that fateful morning in November 2005.

When I took Fezeka’s call I was being driven to a departmental function. Arriving there‚ I was met by a tense-faced Lorna Daniels‚ my media officer and Kimmy’s chief. She asked if I was aware of the rape allegation as she had already heard of the incident through Kimmy. It was obvious that the story would soon hit the headlines. I hurried over to the president’s office to inform Mbeki.

I distinctly recall saying to him: ‘Mr President‚ there is a monster walking the land and his name is Jacob Zuma.’ It was not that I accepted that Zuma had raped Fezekile Kuzwayo‚ but just to have taken advantage of her was shocking. Mbeki was as shaken as I was when he heard about the call I had received. For us there was absolutely nothing we could do but let the law take its course. It was assumed Zuma knew about the development.

In the week after that dramatic phone call‚ two police officers came to see me at my office. Ascertaining that had received a call from the young woman about her rape allegation‚ which they were investigating‚ they asked if I would make a statement. I was surprised and queried the need since I was not a witness to the event. They explained that in rape charges‚ owing to the fact that there were seldom witnesses to the act‚ statements from individuals in whom the complainant had confided were acceptable and needed.

Mr President‚ there is a monster walking the land and his name is Jacob Zuma.

I realised then why Fezeka had phoned me since she would have been informed of that requirement by those assisting her in laying the charge. I immediately complied and provided a short statement of no more than two pages simply dealing with the phone call. It was a relief when the officers said they did not think they would need to call me to give evidence in the event of a trial.

Rumours of consternation in the Zuma camp abounded. The media began digging around and the gossip was that ANC members close to Zuma‚ including government ministers‚ were intervening to pressure Fezeka and her mother to withdraw the complaint and accept some form of compensation. I thought they might succeed as the family was clearly in need of financial assistance.

The ANC had strong influence over Beauty Kuzwayo‚ who was a loyal veteran‚ and the prospect for any but the most courageous of women going through a rape trial‚ and such a sensational one as this‚ was daunting not just for Fezeka but for her mother. For all the hope for a fair trial and justice in a democratic South Africa‚ a bias in favour of males was the cross that the country’s women were forced to go on bearing when it came to sexual violence and abuse.

Fezeka was not the kind of person to be bought off by money or stopped by intimidation. Zuma’s allies failed in their endeavours‚ including enormous and wilful pressure from ‘aunties’ to whom she had once been extremely close. This demonstrated how determined she was and that her vulnerable mother‚ despite pressure from the ANC‚ stood by her daughter. Undoubtedly Zuma’s intermediaries made handsome offers. The fact that Fezekile and her mother turned them down spoke volumes about her courage and dignity‚ and the shamelessness of those seeking to shut her up.

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