Andile Gaelisiwe

By Rolland Simpi Motaung

The month of August is one when we commemorate the epic efforts of the women who’ve challenged (and continue to challenge) the hellish political status quo of the country.

It is also one when my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary.

Seated comfortably inside the restaurant on Sandton’s fading morning, we begin to hold a conversation about childhood trauma and whether it shapes one’s life trajectory or not. In my case, it was only in my early teenage years when I became exposed to traumatic experiences whereas my wife had dire experiences from a far younger age.

Through gruelling self-therapy, and professional therapy as well, she gradually found healing in a quest to not be defined by her childhood trauma.

Similarly in her recent book Remembering, Andile Gaelisiwe shares the story of her difficult journey toward healing and acceptance after having experienced horrific sexual abuse for most of her childhood and again as an adult.

In reference to the title of the book, she writes: “The word ‘remembering’ has also been a mantra to assist me and give me courage, because remembering my childhood experiences has been an extremely tough exercise for me, given that many were more than just experiences – they were traumas.”

Weaving in with IsiZulu kasi slang (with translation provided) along with touches of poetry and mantras, Remembering is an inspirational memoir that tackles issues of rape, patriarchy, friendship, witchcraft and learning to live life to the fullest.

“One of my first memories of growing up in Meadowlands is a man who lived in a room next door to us,” she writes.

“I can’t remember the exact details but I know that was my first experience of rape. The sexual abuse did not start with my biological father, but with this man” she further states.

In seeking refuge from her mother’s judgment, Andile reveals that she ended up staying with her estranged biological father who had started another family. Little did she know that ubaba would “cut my innocent girlhood, breaking my virginity.”

These events also affirm that sadly the perpetrator is usually known to the victim and that close family members, who are supposed to be a supporting structure, sometimes cover themselves with a blanket of ignorance.

Andile also recalls beginning to hate her body and being depressed, angry and mistrusting of people to the extent that she attempted suicide at the age of 16.

As a young adult, Andile sought to pursue her singing ambitions, however she was faced with many obstacles from a capitalist and patriarchal entertainment industry. It can be argued that such challenges are seen in most male-dominated industries where there is a deliberate suppression of a woman’s voice and career growth potential.

As her music career blossomed, she says male colleagues and decision-makers often exhibited a sense of entitlement, to get sexually rewarded, if they offered her a platform.

In my view, such entitlement is what makes a lot of men use their positions of power to belittle and sabotage women if they don’t get their way.
The Abuti Yo Ontshwara Hamonate hit-maker argues that these men have low-esteem issues: “Because they feel inadequate, they go around overcompensating usually to someone else’s detriment more often than not, that someone is a woman.”

She also maintains that many women may not speak out due to fear of stigmatisation or short-circuiting their careers because “the minute you start speaking truth to patriarchy you are cast as crazy”.

Still, with all the sabotage and backlash received from the entertainment industry, she’s stood her ground. A particular incident she highlights is when she took on her previous management at a Joburg-based radio station, after she was sexually harassed.

Her efforts eventually led to transformative measures around gender issues within the organisation. More recently, she also stood her ground in calling out some close male friends, who’ve been entangled in multiple sexual assault and rape allegations.

Truth is, men in positions of power – and I dare say, men in general – are intimidated by outspoken women, thus they may seek to dim a woman’s light, even at times to the undesirable lengths of using spiritual warfare.

Beyond other dark chapters communicating her deadly brush with witchcraft, Andile speaks openly of an ex-boyfriend, called ‘Stanley’ whom she describes as a “predator and narcissist” and a spiritual rapist who carefully plotted to exploit her, including sucking her financially dry.

A spiritual healer or “high priestess” herself, Andile spotted this spiritual attack early on in their relationship and found ways to remove herself from that situation and from many other negative environments particularly within the media and entertainment industry.

Healing and reclaiming power, Andile emphasises that broken people break people all the time hence in her adult years she’s slowly reclaimed her power.

She was able to find strength particularly from listening to others share their stories of being raped by their fathers. Over the years, she has overcome all childhood traumas that she’s suppressed.

With the slogan “Talking is Therapy and Therapy is Healing”, she founded Open Disclosure Foundation (ODF), an organisation that helps young sexually abused women to find healing.


She advises that letting go of toxic environments, forgiveness and self-care are necessary to healing and transformation.

Some forms of self-cleansing, she writes, includes finding new value-adding friendships or ‘tribemates’, going on a vacation alone or even taking a long bath infused with healing salts.

She writes that she has also found healing and validation through her work on nation-building TV shows like Khumbul’ekhaya on SABC 1 and Uthando Noxolo on Moja Love. Similar to my wife, Andile’s dreadful past has made her spiritually stronger and mature. Both women have drawn strength and intelligence from the crevices of their hearts and experiences.

The author concludes that “the fact that I never run from pain, I go to it. I sit in it and deal with it. All my scars are justified.
In essence, unearthing the pain and finding ways to heal is the ultimate mission toward creating a liberated life.
Although it may be triggering to some women, Remembering is overall a necessary read.

I also highly recommend this read to all men, so that we can learn to listen more attentively to how our actions may have long-term negative impacts on women’s lives.

Now in her mid-40s, Andile is filled with gratitude and acceptance and is comfortable with her journey.
She concludes: “I am enough, more than enough, just as I am.” –

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