Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils says incidents of sexual abuse within the African National Congress have always been swept under the rug to protect the public image of the liberation movement.
“It was brushed under the [rug] because it was not just embarrassing, in terms of the personal aspects, but in terms of what it would say about the organisation if it were to come out,” Kasrils said in an interview with Talk Radio 702 on Sunday night.
He was reflecting on the life of Fezeka Khuzwayo, commonly referred to as Khwezi, the woman who accused President Jacob Zuma of rape in 2005.
Journalist and radio personality Redi Tlhabi has written a book titled Khwezi: the remarkable story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, which she worked with Kuzwayo on before she died in October last year.
Kuzwayo was the daughter of then Umkhonto weSizwe commander Judson Kuzwayo in exile. He was a close friend of Zuma, and was imprisoned along with him on Robben Island.
‘Fezeka was no slut’
Kasrils said Khwezi’s sexual history should not have been exploited by Zuma’s defence during the rape trial. According to Tlhabi’s book, Khwezi was raped three times in exile by men she regarded as father figures.
“In terms of the ‘slut Fezeka’ she was no slut; she was a hurt young woman. She was damaged through lots of experiences in the death of her father, she was extremely vulnerable,” he said.
“That’s how I knew Fezeka, no slut whatsoever, a really lovely beautiful human being that was abused by the man who is president of this country, whether it was rape or not.”
Zuma was acquitted of rape in the Johannesburg High Court in May 2006.
Had the ANC dealt with the culture of sexual abuses during its years in exile, Kasrils said the party would have succeeded in dealing with sexual predation much better.
“If we had actually bitten that bullet, we would have succeeded much better. For today’s South Africa, where this has gone absolutely haywire in government and the coverups and so on. In a sense it could say to us, you allowed this to happen in a little way … in terms of the seed, this became part of a culture shying away from confronting people,” he said.
Exile wasn’t a ‘horror story’
However, the former ANC national executive committee (NEC) member said the party’s time in exile “wasn’t a horror story”, as it had changed many people’s lives for the better.
“Just to put the ANC’s exile period in context, it wasn’t a horror story, it wasn’t Cambodia. It wasn’t a nightmare; you have people whose lives have changed for the better and developed and blossomed. And people will tell you it was the greatest part of their lives, and I’m one of them who would say so,” Kasrils said.
“In any society you got the good and the bad, you got aspects of corruption; you got abuses taking place behind closed doors at night between fathers and children. We knew some cases there [were] aspects of rape which the ANC can’t grapple with,” he added.