There is promising news from South Africa, where police have made an arrest in connection with a series of murders of gay men. Authorities believe a gang of brutal robbers and serial killers have targeted gay men around Johannesburg and Cape Town over the past three and a half years. At least nine men have been killed.
The arrest of Nhlanhla Msimango in connection with the murder of Siphiwe Nhlapo happened about two weeks ago near Jo'burg in Gauteng province, reports Eyewitness News. Msimango is scheduled to appear in court today.
Msimango had been evading arrest for over a year and was detained after a hijacking in Dobsonville. Police are investigating whether he is connected to the murder of Siphiwe Nhlapo after relatives of the victim identified him.
Nhlapo was found dead in his Kliptown home in September 2011. Police found that he had been strangled and that his face was covered in acid. It is believed that Msimango murdered Siphiwe Nhlapo. The police have noted that the modus operandi was similar to that of the other victims.
All of the victims were discovered bound, strangled or stabbed with no signs of forced entry. Most victims had online dating profiles. And at least five of the killed gay men were Black, according to photos published in The Star. After previously denying that a serial killer was on the loose, authorities disclosed in November 2012 that "four of the victims appeared to have been murdered by the same person."
There have been three other arrests, reports the Saturday Star. The only other arrests linked to the serial murders came in the case of Norwood resident Barney van Heerden. "Three men were arrested for the crime and their trial begins next month, but they have not been forensically linked to any of the other crimes."
More than two years ago, detectives lost valuable video surveillance footage of one victim who was seen with an unknown man shortly before his death. Public pressure forced authorities to create an inter-agency task force after investigating offcers were criticized as incompetent.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is also the only African nation to guarantee marriage equality and gay adoption.
Despite these protections, the reality is much different for many Black LGBT South Africans. Life in the impoverished townships is far less tolerant. Lesbians, gay men and transgender men and women are often targeted by violent attacks. Brutal so-called "corrective rape" and murder are increasing against lesbians in the townships, as well as rape and attacks against gay men and transgender women. South Africa has the world's highest rates of crime rates and rape. A rape is committed every 17 seconds in the RSA, according to Interpol.
An estimated "510 women report being the victims of “corrective” rape every year in South Africa and 31 lesbians have been murdered over the past 10 years because of their sexual orientation," according to South African human rights activist Ndumie Funda. The government has announced it will introduce hate crime legislation, "which would include laws to prosecute physical and verbal attacks on foreigners and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
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