18 years ‘won’t bring our daughter back’
“It’s not about revenge, its about punishment.”
These were the words of 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana’s stepfather minutes after the four men who bludgeoned her to death were each sentenced to an effective 14 years in jail.
Gladwell Mandindi said he and Nkonyana’s mother, Monica, accepted the sentence.
“Eighteen years sounds enough, but it can’t be because it will never bring her back,” Mandindi said.
Nkonyana was beaten to death on February 4, 2006, just metres from her Khayelitsha home because she was openly lesbian.
Her killers, Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Londzi and Mbulelo Damba, were each sentenced to 18 years, with four suspended for five years on condition they were not convicted of murder during the period of suspension.
Initially, nine men were charged with murder, but Sabelo Yakiso, Themba Dlephu, Mfundo Kulani, Zolile Kobese and Anele Gwele were acquitted last year.
In sentencing the men yesterday, Khayelitsha Regional Court magistrate Raadiyah Wathen took into account that the men were first offenders, aged between 16 and 17 at the time of the offence and that they showed no remorse during the trial.
Wathen said Nkonyana had the constitutional right to life and freedom of choice.
“A young woman’s life was taken away by virtue of her beliefs and life choices. I am satisfied that the motive of the murder was driven by hatred and intolerance of her difference. The accused acted out their opinion in a brutal and public way,” Wathen said.
Mandindi said the family would try to relax and leave the court case behind. “Maybe now Zoliswa can rest in peace forever,” he said.
After the sentencing, Nkonyana’s mother refused to speak to the media.
Hundreds of gay activists at court welcomed the sentences.
Jill Henderson of the Triangle Project said working towards transforming society’s view on homosexuality was next on their agenda.
“As the magistrate said, the court can only attempt to restore justice, but nothing will bring Zoliswa back.
“We are also pleased that the magistrate acknowledged she was killed because she was lesbian. But the work continues. This isn’t the only case, a lot still needs to be done,” Henderson said.
The men have two weeks to apply for leave to appeal.