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A triumph of law over justice

Publish date: 09 October 2017
Issue Number: 746
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

Redi Tlhabi’s book on Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo – best known until now as Khwezi, President Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser – not only returns her identity, but questions society’s attitudes and aspects of the judicial system. A BusinessLIVE analysis notes that Tlhabi effectively puts South Africa on trial for what it thinks and what it does not bother to think deeply about – the scourge of rape. In a sense, Kuzwayo was a child soldier. She was raped when she was five, 12 and 13 years old. Tlhabi – the 2013 winner of the Alan Paton Award and a former radio talk show host – believes the outcome of the Zuma rape trial was ‘a triumph of law over justice’. At her Johannesburg book launch last week, an unprecedented 600 people queued for hours for Tlhabi to sign a book that sold more than 10 000 copies in its first two weeks. It is already in its third print run. Tlhabi has focused her formidable mind on the minute details of the Zuma rape trial court records. She points out in the book that ‘Fezekile was expected to remember granular details of things that happened decades ago, when she was a little girl’. Her past sexual history, normally disallowed in a rape case, ‘was used to slut-shame her’. Tlhabi believes justice can be denied ‘because of your delivery as a witness. If you are overwhelmed in strange courtroom surroundings, in front of a judge and formidable advocates asking you hostile, combative questions … I suspect your account may be compromised. The law doesn’t make room for confusion or memory lapses.’ Tlhabi may not have undertaken writing the book if she had known what was in store – she fell pregnant while working on it and Kuzwayo died of an HIV-related illness before it was finished. She was one of eight women pallbearers at the funeral in October 2016.

Full analysis on the BusinessLIVE site