Opinionista Lebo Keswa 28 October 2014

Must we sacrifice Kelly Khumalo as well?

In a democratic South Africa, the level of judgement and vitriol levelled at Kelly Khumalo – Senzo Meyiwa’s girlfriend – is deeply distressing. Let’s remember that she’s a human being and an equal.

I am not usually one to write about social or relationship issues, but I cannot help but feel a great deal of heartfelt sadness and anger at what Kelly Khumalo has been subjected to in the hours following the murder of Senzo Meyiwa, her lover and the father of her daughter.

She is young, vibrant, beautiful and a talented musician and actress. In many ways, she adds a great deal of value to our society. But trust that same society to focus on the one black dot in a big white sheet. Isn’t it just like us human beings to overlook all the good any human possesses and go straight for the moral high ground, forgetting that we, too, are only human, with our own share of skeletons in the closet? What would become of society if we were all in the public eye?

Our colonisers not only stole land from us, they also implanted some ideas, one of these being their concept of marriage. Now, we all tend to be very judgemental around the issue. Our forefathers fought for our freedom and we live in a democratic society, where women and men have equal rights, but it appears this was in vain. For all our marching around with placards claiming we are feminists, it appears this is not the case. Judging by the responses to Kelly Khumalo’s loss, it seems as women, all we are doing is pulling each other down, judging those among us who don’t fit the pre-approved marriage mould. And any time we see another woman’s mistake or misfortune, we seem to come out with guns blazing. What part of life being about choices do women not understand? Why are we being so judgemental of each other?

Now, about Kelly Khumalo specifically. Fine, she “cheated” – whatever that means – with Senzo Meyiwa. As can be expected, the media went wild. Then Khumalo and Meyiwa took it a step further and had a child – the tabloids were on fire. Then Khumalo assaulted Meyiwa’s wife – the newspapers were on steroids. Yet through it all, the two continued their relationship and, bizarrely, it seemed all this strife did nothing but bring them closer together. Early media reports suggested Meyiwa took a bullet for Khumalo, although this remains unconfirmed. For me, if it’s true, it’s a scene from Romeo and Juliet. The ultimate love story with the ultimate tragic ending.

What’s interesting about all of this is that, in a metaphorical sense, Khumalo took the media “bullet” for Meyiwa at the start of their relationship. In these matters, it seems it is always the woman who is to blame and not the man. It is always the woman who is the home-wrecker, not the man. Senzo was an adult, a man and a father. He made his own choices and took decisions whereby he defied his own family and society to a certain extent. It is not fair that this is blamed on Kelly. Is falling in love a crime? Do we have so much self-hatred, as women? For as long as I’ve lived I’ve never once heard of a man that has broken a family apart, but I can count more women with both my hands combined.

Moreover, South Africa is a polygamous society, where many men have more than one relationship concurrently. What part of this are people not understanding? When is “cheating” actually cheating, in this context? Is it a case of cheating, or a case of the terms of the marriage not being agreed upon properly in the first instance? When you get married, outline the terms and conditions of your marriage thoroughly, and stop making unnecessary noise when things don’t go your way. Set the record straight in the first place, and clear up whether you are willing to accept polygamy or not. I, personally, have had enough of “cheating” making news headlines. It is 2014 – the world has evolved, and so have we.

We live in a democratic country with its own societal laws, and as women we need to be very clear about where we stand in our marriages – and we need to stop looking down on unmarried women who have made different choices. If you, personally, are unhappy with the terms of your marriage, tsamaya, but don’t air your dirty linen in public. Why do we look down on girlfriends (nyatsi) when even our Constitution underpins their rights? Whichever way you want to look at this – and I haven’t fully cleared up how it works, myself – that’s the reality of our society. Whether you yourself want to buy into it is neither here nor there.

Marriage has come to a point where it needs to be politicised, as it seems a number of women need to be educated about the Constitution and marital contracts. Whatever happened to Pastor Khathida? It’s time he educated couples on what it meant to be married in a post-Apartheid, democratic society. Heck, even the president could do a better job! “Oh, the road of life is rocky and you can stumble too/ So before you talk about me, someone else is judging you/ Judge not, lest you judge yourself/ Judge not, you’re not ready for judgement, woohoo…” No one said it better than Bob Marley, did they?

My heart goes out to Kelly Khumalo; the way in which she has been sabotaged – crucified in the media.

The past few hours’ events have left me dumbfounded. I am left with Biblical images to ponder; perhaps this is Khumalo’s cross to bear to cavalry.

We live in a society where many people are Christians, so perhaps some of them will recognise the verse of Matthew 6:14: “For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is, of course, one of many verses that speaks of the importance of forgiveness and non-judgement.

So to Kelly Khumalo, as she carries that cross, all I can say is that there are many black sheep in this family. We are all human, we all err. As we mourn the life of the legendary Senzo Meyiwa and our deepest condolences go out to his wife, children, family, fellow soccer players and fans, let us also remember Kelly Khumalo, a human with feelings, who has equally lost someone she loved. May her beloved Senzo’s soul rest in peace. DM

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