Working to end rape culture in South Africa

and a society that believes black women when they say they have been raped

In 2016, ten years after being acquitted of the rape of “Khwezi” (real name: Fezekile Kuzwayo), President Jacob Zuma’s speech at the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) briefing on the election results, which was being televised live, was disrupted by the protest of four young women. In silent protest to #RememberKhwezi they stood, holding very simple placards: “I am 1 in 3”, “Khanga” “10 yrs later” and “Remember Khwezi”. Watch

Their act of protest and solidarity was a powerful moment in which the nation stood witness to the movement to end rape culture in South Africa. Canon Collins Tom Queba scholar Simamkele Dlakavu was one of those women. “Our purpose was to remind him (President Zuma) and the country that 10 years on, we recognise that he is in power. Meanwhile, Khwezi, was denied justice and exiled  for reporting that she was raped”  She writes.

During the trial, Khwezi was called a bitch, threatened and spat upon by the ANC and Zuma supporters. The home that she and her mother lived in was burnt down. She became a pariah and was forced to flee to the Netherlands. Just two months after the protest at the IEC, Khwezi passed away.

The #RememberKhwezi protest is one of a series of disruptive and powerful protests by African Feminists over the last fifteen years that has shaken higher education institutions, the socio-cultural milieu and the political system of South Africa.

Formed in 2006 in solidarity with Khwezi and other survivors who speak out, the One in Nine Campaign is a South African collective of organisations and individuals that supports survivors of sexual violence. Africa as a continent has the most extensive women’s rights  organisations. The One in Nine  Campaign and others like it draws strength and vision from long traditions of feminist resistance against patriarchal sexual hegemony and hetero-normative intolerance.

Simamkele’s PhD “Fighting against erasure, the One  in Nine  Campaign and feminist movement building against sexual violence” creates an archive of the history of this important movement to end rape culture, femicide and gender-based violence in South Africa. It captures the collective wisdom, lessons, tools, victories and stories of the movement and preserves its memory for the ongoing mobilisation for justice for black women.

“I believe in the importance of black feminist revolt in a country where black women are the main victims of poverty, exploitation and violence. A revolt is necessary because we simply cannot continue living life in fear of rape and abuse. A revolt is necessary to show that violence against black women and their bodies will no longer be tolerated.”

We hope to live in a society free of rape. Until that society exists, we will continue to mobilise, protest and disrupt any space that seeks to perpetuate rape culture and erase women’s histories.”