On the 4th July 2013 the black lesbian youth of Ekurhuleni took charge of their community as they organized an illegal march on the street of Thokoza, to protest against the ongoing trend of lesbian killings in their community. The group of about 50 black lesbians began their protest in the area where the dead body of 20 year old Nokuthula Radebe’s was found in April 2011.
“This is the place where the first lesbian was killed here in Thokoza, we are gathered here to express our animosity towards this place”, said Sister A, who is member of Ihawu, a Lesbian organisation working in Kathorus (Katlehong, Thokoza and Vosloorus) when she addressed the hyped up group.
“We are marching in honour of our fallen lesbian sisters, for the spirit of Duduzile Zozo and Nokuthula Radebe.”
Earlier in the year, Ihawu together with Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) commemorated the death of Nokuthula, and in her honour they requested the municipality to demolish the abandoned building as it is a sore point for Radebe’s family and the LGBTI community living in that area. However, their request fell on deaf ears as the building is still standing.
The march proceeded to where Duduzile Zozo’s dead body was found, a stone throw away from her home.
The group assembled outside the house where she was found and lit candles in honor of her spirit. The community came out in support of the march and memorial service. Members of the Thokoza Community Policing forum (CPF), Thokoza youth group and SANCO members.
“One death is too many”, said Kgathatso Kgosithata, member of Thokoza CPF. “As CPF we are working together with the police to make sure that the culprits are found and make sure that this doesn’t happen in our community anymore.”
“Corrective rapes“, beatings and murders are disturbingly common in conservative communities where homophobia remains deeply entrenched. Ekurhuleni has become a battleground for black lesbians.
Since the murder of Eudy Simelane in 2008, many cases of assault, rape and murder have been reported in Ekurhuleni alone.
To date five lesbians have been brutally murdered and several others assaulted and raped.
Jabu Sibisi a young lesbian from Thokoza said, “I fear for my life, I feel like I am the next victim, I can never be free again after this.”
“I am traumatized and angry, this is my second friend to be murdered, whatever that is happening in my community pains me, but it won’t stop me from being who I am. I am a proud lesbian and no one can change me”, said Fikile Mazibuko another lesbian from Thokoza.
The concerns echoed by the two young lesbians are the sentiments of many other lesbians from Ekurhuleni who came out in numbers to affirm the existence.
Tumi Mkhuma, a lesbian friend of the deceased and a corrective rape survivor, expressed her outraged about her friend’s death. “I feel sad for my friend, the fact that she didn’t survive this pains me. As a rape survivor myself, I know what she went through and it is not a good place to be.”
In 2009, Mkhuma was dragged from a bar, beaten unconscious, and then raped in Katlehong. Luckily she survived but many did not.
Most of the cases have striking similarities in term of the manner they are carried out. All of the victims are reported as being last seen in a tavern leaving with male friends. It is also speculated that these murders are orchestrated by people who know the victims very well.
Mkhuma said she knows her rapist and where they live, and with Zozo’s case it is alleged that his male friends that she was last seen with having something to do with her murder.
However, one concerned mother and a representative form SANCO who lives nearby Zozo’s home blames the horrendous killing on alcohol and drugs.
Mam’ Puleng, chairperson of SANCO said, “these murders are stirred by drugs, Nyaope is the cause of this, our children have turned into monsters, their brains are dead because of nyaope.”
“These drugs are very dangerous and shouldn’t be taken lightly”, she said.
Lesbian murders in June
June is celebrated as the youth month in South Africa, a month where the brave youth of 1976 are remembered and celebrated. However, for the LGBTI community, June has become a month that members of this colorful, flamboyant communities are murdered for being open about their sexuality.
In 2012 June, three black lesbians, and a gay man under the age of 30 were brutally murdered in different places in South Africa.
Phumeza Nkolonzi, (22) was shot three times in front of her mother and niece in Nyanga on the 24 June 2012. It was reported that, “The gunman broke down the door and started firing at Nkolonzi without saying a word, leaving her family traumatised and confused.”
Hendrietta Thapelo Morifi, (29) lived as an out lesbian in the village of Phola Park, Mokopane. She was killed on 29 June 2012 in her home with a braai fork inserted into her throat.
Sanna Supa, (28) was shot and killed while opening the gate to her house in Braam Fischer, Soweto on the 30 June 2012.
Thapelo Makutle, (24) on the 9 June 2012 was killed and mutilated in Seoding near Kuruman. His throat had been slit to the point of a virtual beheading, and part of his testicles and penis had allegedly been cut off and stuffed into his mouth.
The murders mentioned are just a fraction of the daunting statistics of LGBTI murders that happen almost every day across South Africa, a country known for embracing the gay rights.
Government breaking the silence
The government has come out in support of Zozo’s case, with Premier Nomvula Mokonyane condemning the murder and also calling on the South African citizens to be more tolerant.
Also, it seems like the case of Zozo has compelled the National Task Team into acting. The team had received a lot of criticism for their silence and lack of progress since its inception in May 2011.
“On Wednesday, senior officials from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ & CD) were sent to Thokoza to meet with local police to establish the progress made in the investigation”, reported Mambaonline.
“The officials were accompanied by members of civil society groups, including FEW, who form part of the task team mandated to develop an urgent intervention to combat crimes against LGBTI people.”
A task team was also established at the Thokoza police station, comprising of police officer, community policing forum members as well as members from the community to try and speed up the case as well as to review the case of Radebe which remains unsolved.
The murder of Zozo happened just a week after the President of United States (US), Barack Obama visited some countries in the African continent, especially South Africa.
Obama had received a lot of pressures from human rights organisations, urging him to address the state of homosexuality which is criminalised in 38 countries in Africa.
Obama was met with some negative responses when he tried addressing the issue in his visit to Senegal, one of the African countries that criminalises homosexuality.
Nonetheless, as the LGBTI community in South Africa, we wonder what difference would it had made if Obama and Jacob Zuma discussed the hate crime situation towards homosexuals in South Africa when they met.
Would it have made a difference in the lives of gay people?
Or maybe shifted the mind sets of traditionalist and homophobes who believe that being gay is wrong, un-African and it should and can be fixed.
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