by Charmain Carrol
Today marks exactly a year and seventeen (17) days since Mandisa Mbambo was laid to rest in iNanda Township, Durban in KwaZulu Natal. One might wonder what the relevance of this information is and if it is of any use in people’s lives.
This incident is significant to me particularly because I am an out lesbian woman, and to read that Mandisa was found in her backroom naked, beaten up, her hands and feet tied up under a pile of clothing. It was also assumed that she might have been raped, all because she was an openly out butch lesbian. This really hit home and it hit hard.
Mandisa Mbambo was born on the 15th October 1978, now this means she was born just a year later after I was born. I cannot begin to imagine myself dying because of my sexuality. I mean being a lesbian is the only thing that I know how to be and that’s just who I am.
My lesbian sexuality comes after me being just a human being.
A human being who deserves to live like any other person on earth, with the same rights. I deserve respect just like Mandisa deserved to live. She did not deserve to die in any cruel manner that she did.
According to ISolezwe newspaper, amongst the people who attended her funeral was Legislature Deputy Speaker Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, who said “the killing of Mandisa was immoral and uncalled for” he also said that “she had a right to be a lesbian”
Those were profound words which we all want to believe as lesbians but cannot live a day pass them, because they are nothing but ink on paper. The text scripted on our SA Constitution which declares that same sex loving individuals have the right to be who they are, they have a right to life and not to be discriminated against. It is evident that the SA Constitution is not as effective as it should be. A thought constantly comes up in my head if what the legislature deputy said still echoes at the back of someone else’s.
Next year mark 20 Years of Democracy in South Africa.
I always question myself, what this mean for me as a black lesbian mother who lives in the township?
If the constitution failed Mandisa and all the other hate crime victims, what’s to become of me? What’s to become of all of us who are condemned to be sinners and ‘un-African’ only because we love people of the same sex.
Does this mean we should continue to live in fear?
Does this mean we also incite and inflict pain on our fellow brothers before they do it to us?
One should not blame such atrocious behaviours to be the SA governments fault. I will also not deprive myself from enjoying my Freedom because I fear the slightest sight of a man. Am I to fear my brother, my father, my uncle?
Do I tell my daughter not to ever trust men?
I am not comfortable with living in paranoia because it is unhealthy and unnecessary.
The question remains, who is to blame for this ill behaviour, if not the government?
If not me for walking late on the streets and if not the perpetrators because they were merely ‘correcting’ what they perceive to be (in)correct?
Who is to blame?
Two words: dysfunctional families!
I believe that as a country we lack values, we have lost respect for one another, and poverty has lost the value and the meaning of life. Our family systems are broken and all those are the social imperfections of this country. We also can’t justify the act of murder on that, yes truth is the flaws are there, visible for everyone to see. What change are we making?
What ideas are we instilling on our children as parents, educators and members of society?
Being a lesbian did not make Mandisa less human, because she had friends, she had a family and she probably had a partner, if that’s not human enough than what constitutes humanity?
She touched many lives.
I spoke to Ramazan Ngobese who attended the funeral and actually appeared in the Isolezwe newspaper dated the 3 September 2012 carrying Mandisa’s body into the hall.
She says:” I don’t want to lie and says I revisited the family, I did not. There was no follow up what so ever, the thing with us lesbians we are not united. We get so hyped up in marching and protesting. There’s no one else to blame but ourselves.”
Rama continued to say “until we bring our Pride Marches to the townships in the community that we live in, we will have no change. Hosting Gay Pride in the City of Durban did not make sense for me because all the rapes and brutal murders of the lesbians and gays are happening in the townships. Maybe it’s lack of understanding of who we are in the communities.
If we had Pride marches in the townships where families have queer children. A queer child the families they don’t understand will then see that there are others like him or her.”
Ngobese also pointed out that there is discrimination amongst lesbians themselves. She continued and said, “there are still a lot of rapes that are not reported because we as butch lesbian are afraid.
The shame of being ridiculed as to how can you say you are a man and be raped?
We are men to our wives and girlfriends. Sonke siyakwazi lokho, but to everyone else we are just women who need to be taught a lesson. This is something serious and painful and nothing to make fun of.”
In conclusion Ngobese said “ we need to unite and let God into our lives. Bring Gay Pride to our communities and we will make a change in that way. Unkulunkulu angeke ayekele izingane zakhe zifele emanyaleni.”
According to Sam Khanyile who said last year that, “I have not moved from my home, I still live in the same community Mandisa lived in. We need to do awareness drives in the community so they know we exist. We are Christians, we are sisters, we are aunts, we are mothers, and we too have mothers.
Moving from my neighbourhood will not change anything.
Khanyile who was also one of Mandisa’s coffin carriers has since moved from the neighbourhood but stated that it was not because of what had happened to Mandisa but she needed to be close to work.
She also expressed deep concern and guilt that she had not been to see the family, but is planning to go back to iNanda to do a candle light ceremony for all the Queer people who were brutally murdered and raped in that township.
Khanyile was not sure whether an unveiling had been done for Mandisa.
NB: ***Please note that we will report on the outcome of Mandisa Mbambo’s murder case of Aug. 2012.
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