Tragic tale: Nompumelelo Mayiyane as Fezekile Kuzwayo in ‘Khwezi … Say My Name’ currently on at the State Theatre. Picture: SANMARI MARAIS
Tragic tale: Nompumelelo Mayiyane as Fezekile Kuzwayo in ‘Khwezi … Say My Name’ currently on at the State Theatre. Picture: SANMARI MARAIS

Not that long ago, Jacob Zuma occupied the most powerful position in SA. But now, in a venue close to the Union Buildings, he is being depicted as a molester of a vulnerable woman, the daughter of his fellow freedom fighter in exile, the late Jackson Kuzwayo.

The actors in Khwezi … Say My Name, on at the State Theatre in Pretoria, pierce through the pain suffered by many people who closely followed the story of Fezekile Kuzwayo.

In the dialogue, the chanting, singing and dancing, the cast touch emotions in a profound way. The helplessness, vulnerability and the sense of betrayal that Kuzwayo might have felt through her ordeal is impossible to escape.

Zuma may have been acquitted of the charge of raping her, but that is beside the point when the cast portrays, quite convincingly, how she went to her grave insisting she had been raped.

The audience is taken on a journey of the circumstances that led to the painful but disputed events on a night in the leafy Forest Town suburb, Zuma’s home in Johannesburg.

The performance starts with what looks like warm chit-chat between Malume Zuma, who Kuzwayo seems to regard as a trusted uncle and part of her extended family. It then shows the breakdown of this trust.

The action travels to the inside of a court, where more pain is visited upon Kuzwayo by Zuma’s supporters and his defence lawyer advocate Kemp J Kemp, a role brilliantly played by Willie Ludik.

Although the story is a painful one in SA’s legal history, it is told in a tasteful manner by writer and director Napo Masheane and her talented cast.

Masheane adapted the book Khwezi: The remarkable story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo by Redi Tlhabi.

JT Medupe is convincing in his role as Zuma and Nompumelelo Mayiyane brings Kuzwayo to life.

"I have treated this character like the way I treat others — with respect — and I have gone about my artistic process without worrying too much about people’s expectations. As a team we are presenting as much truth as we can," says Mayiyane.

The star-studded cast includes Skeem Saam actor Nicholas Nkuna (as Zweli Mkhize), Madge Kola (as Kuzwayo’s mother), Naledi Award recipient Ntambo Rapatla, songstress Bridget "Solace" Maswanganye and 2017 Idols SA finalist Thokozile Ndimande.

Masheane’s handling of this tragic tale marks her serious impact on mainstream theatre.

Khwezi … Say My Name is at the South African State Theatre until August 12