Madiba's grandchild regrets not supporting Zuma rape accuser
Feelings of shame and guilt kept Ndileka Mandela from reporting her alleged rape
Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela, says one of the reasons she remained silent about her alleged rape for five years was to avoid the kind of humiliating questions Cheryl Zondi faced this week.
“I really feel pain for this young woman, and I am so proud to see how courageous she’s been on the witness stand and the strength that she has shown,” said Mandela.
“But I felt that the justice system is raping her all over again. Questions that were asked ... about how many inches she was penetrated by Timothy Omotoso were beyond shocking. What happened to her this week is what has kept many women, including myself, from reporting rape.”
Mandela, 53, told Times Select that feelings of shame and guilt made it difficult for her to talk publicly about, or report, the alleged sexual assault by her boyfriend on Women’s Day in 2012.
“I think these are the emotions that many women who are raped go through ... there is that feeling of guilt. You ask yourself whether you didn’t say ‘no’ enough … did my body language lead him to do it, or were we just having rough sex?” she said.
Mandela, who disclosed the alleged rape a year ago, said the thought of being grilled in court about her sex life – and the potential harm this may cause her children – made her stay silent.
“I knew that it would be difficult for me to prove the rape. In court your sexual behaviour becomes the focal point, and I wasn’t prepared to take my children through that.”
Mandela said Zondi’s humiliation was similar to that faced by Fezekile “Khwezi” Kuzwayo during the 2006 rape trial of Jacob Zuma.
Not only was Kuzwayo asked similar questions, “but the mocking that she faced from other women, including the ANC Women’s League which supported Zuma, was probably the most painful experience for her. As South Africans we sat back and kept quiet while another woman was being raped all over again by our justice system and our society.”
Mandela, who broke her silence about being raped amid the #MeToo global social media campaign, said she “deeply regretted not supporting Khwezi”.
This week marked a year since American actress Alyssa Milano asked Twitter followers who had been sexually harassed or assaulted to respond, “me too”. Singer and former MP Jennifer Ferguson responded by accusing soccer boss Danny Jordaan of raping her 20 years earlier. Mandela said it was a conversation with a male friend about Ferguson that persuaded her to reveal her secret.
Lisa Vetten, a gender-based violence researcher at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, said guilt, doubt and stigma kept many women from speaking out about sexual crimes.
“Many women go through difficult emotions because of how society perceives rape survivors. Often these individuals get blamed for luring rapists and are labelled as attention-seekers, especially if the perpetrator is a young man,” she said.
Mandela said rape by an acquaintance was even more difficult to deal with. “When someone who professed to love you is now violating you in the most indecent manner, it’s very painful,” she said.
Without the support of her sister, Zinhle, a close friend and psychological therapy, she would “probably be bitter and resentful” towards her ex and men, she said.
“It was the therapist that taught me that forgiving is not about the other person who has done you wrong, but is about you letting go of negative emotions. Staying angry with him would have left me bitter for life, and I don’t think I would have experienced the beautiful relationship that my partner and I have right now,” she said.