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Khwezi's family thanks South Africans for support

Fezekile Kuzwayo was the woman who accused President Jacob Zuma of rape in 2005.

FILE: One of four women who staged a silent anti-rape protest during President Jacob Zuma's address at the IEC briefing on 6 August 2016. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The family of Fezekile Kuzwayo - the woman known as Khwezi - has thanked South Africans for their support over the years, saying she was a pillar of hope for many women.

Kuzwayo died on Saturday.

She accused President Jacob Zuma of rape in 2005 and a year later he was acquitted of the charge.

Family spokesperson Bunie Matlanyane Sexwale says: "She's been hope for a lot of women all over the world for her bravery, she's a very brave person. We just appreciate women and some men who have reached out to her all these years and supported and her mother."

Sekgwale says Kuzwayo was a vibrant soul despite the challenges she faced.

"She was a very vibrant soul, happy, always joking, always supportive to her mother and everybody else."

Matlanyane Sexwale says Khwezi's death came as a shock.

"It's very shocking losing a young person and a mother, we were very close. So it's like one twin leaving the other behind."

She says Khwezi will be remembered as someone who always made the family laugh.

"Vibrant and loving daughter. When we wipe our tears we'll be laughing about her jokes."

When Khwezi accused Zuma of rape in 2005, the president denied the claims, saying he had consensual sex with the HIV-positive woman at his Johannesburg home and said he later took a shower.

In May 2006 the president was cleared of rape, with the judge ruling that the encounter was consensual.

CONCEALED IDENTITY

When Kuzwayo - who was then known as Khwezi - first came into court, she was surrounded by members of the Scorpions Unit and completely covered from head to toe, so no one could identify her.

The court's public gallery was cleared and only those involved with the case and reporters were allowed to stay.

In court she was forced to explain exactly what happened about how she had known now Zuma since she was a child and about her relationship with him.

She explained how Zuma penetrated her and said: "I couldn't move, I couldn't talk, I couldn't do anything".

After she testified, Zuma's lawyers brought several men to testify about her sexual history and said she had been raped once as a little girl and twice as a teenager.

KASRILS ON KHWEZI

Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils says he's saddened by the passing of Kuzwayo, saying she passed on at a time when she was getting her life back together.

Khwezi alerted Kasrils of the rape incident before opening a case.

Kasrils says Khwezi's passing is a tragedy

"It was a great shock. I feel very saddened, I think it's such a tragedy. She was just getting her life back together, a life that was devastated by all the abuse and insults."

He says he first met Khwezi when she was very young.

"She was absolutely a lovely young person, someone I really only knew in Swaziland back in 1980s when she was five/six/seven as a young school girl. Jacob Zuma, myself we'd stay with their family while in Swaziland."

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