There is an update to a case that R20 has followed in South Africa. Four men have been convicted of the brutal February 2006 murder of 19-year lesbian activist Zoliswa Nkonyana in Cape Town, reports The Sowetan. Nkonyana was beaten, kicked and stoned to death by a gang of youth in a township.
The case had provoked outrage among activists because it was postponed more than 50 times. About 20 youths were arrested on the day of the murder but many have since been released because of a lack of evidence against them. Ntlabathi, Mase, Lonzi and Dama were found guilty of murdering Nkonyana. But Dlephu, Yekiso and Kulani were acquitted of murder due to a lack of evidence.
Two of the nine men accused of the murder were also released last month due to lack of evidence. Human rights and LGBT activists are pleased with the convictions, but say police incompetence prevented more convictions, reports the Cape Times.
Four of the men, with five others from unrelated cases, escaped from the court’s holding cells in September last year, but were later rearrested. A police officer was arrested on allegations of assisting with the escape.
Funeka Soldaat, founder of Free Gender, was pleased that the magistrate had mentioned in her judgment that the men had killed Zoliswa because she was a lesbian. "It is really a big victory for us. The case has a big impact, not only in the gay community, but the community at large." Soldaat said Free Gender and other concerned organisations would ask that the four men be given the maximum sentence.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 27.
The conviction comes at the same time activists have criticized police for failing to properly investigate the deaths of at least five gay men around Johannesburg. A serial killer is suspected and police have lost CCTV footage of the suspect.
Despite being the only African nation where same-sex marriage is legal—and boasting the world's only constitution where equality in sexual orientation is specified—the reality is much different for many Black South Africans. Life in the impoverished townships is far less tolerant.
South Africa boasts the world's highest rates of crime rates and rape. Brutal so-called "corrective rape" and murder are increasing against lesbians in the townships, as well as rape and attacks against gay men. Police are often criticized for ignoring the attacks or poor detective work. In May 2011, the RSA government announced that it would establish a task force to address the escalating incidents of anti-LGBT attacks in its nation.
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