Ten years since President Jacob Zuma’s rape trial ended in a controversial “not guilty” verdict, his rape accuser has remained invisible with few people knowing her exact whereabouts or what’s happened to her.
But still her supporters refuse to forget.
On Friday, Khwezi’s poem, which she performed dressed in a khanga in the Netherlands in 2008, was widely shared on Facebook.
It reads: “I am khanga - I wrap myself around the curvaceous bodies of women all over Africa. I am the perfect nightdress on those hot African nights - I exist for the comfort and convenience of a woman - But no no no make no mistake - I am not here to please a man - And I certainly am not a seductress - Please don’t use me as an excuse to rape.”
It was on May 8, 2006 (10 years ago on Sunday) that the nation was divided between supporters and activists who were respectively elated and disappointed that the high court in Johannesburg let Zuma, who was deputy president at the time, off the hook after 25 days in court.
On the day the judgment was announced, Zuma’s supporters erupted in jubilation outside the courts. Inside the courtroom, Zuma’s accuser, known as * Khwezi (Star) prepared to change her identity, to go into self-imposed exile with the hope of starting a new life.
Advocate Charin De Beer remembers that period well - from first meeting Khwezi to the time she left South Africa. De Beer was Director of Public Prosecutions at the time.
She says: “I remember interviewing her for the very first time. I knew it was an extraordinary case. Somehow she felt comfortable with me and trusted me. I was struck by her bravery.”
Khwezi had come under fire from Zuma’s supporters, who accused her of lying.
Her HIV status, her sexual orientation and that fact she “tempted” Zuma wearing a khanga were all used to discredit her.
With threats made against Khwezi, De Beer felt protective of her.
“I was more concerned about her safety and the circumstances she was under - I really take my hat off to her to have gone through with the trial regardless of the outcome.”
De Beer believes there were certain aspects of the case that could have been improved on.
It’s unclear if Khwezi is back in the country.