Cape Town - Sex workers were determined to be heard as they waited on the steps of the Western Cape High Court for Zwelethu Mthethwa on Monday morning. The internationally acclaimed artist and photographer has been charged with the murder of Nokuphile Kumalo.
The 23-year-old sex worker was allegedly beaten and kicked to death in Woodstock on the 14th April 2013.
Holding placards that read “Everybody is equal before the law” and “Sex work pays my bills”, a group of about fifteen women crowded around Mthethwa and defence advocate William Booth as they left the high court.
Chanting “sex work is work” the women followed Mthethwa and Booth down the street. When the two escaped into a building, one woman said “tomorrow we will see you”, to which Mthethwa disdainfully shook his head. He is currently out on bail of R100 000.
The trial against Mthethwa was due to start on Monday after a string of postponements, but was shifted until Tuesday as the defence has had difficulty getting “all its ducks in a row”.
State prosecutor Christenus van der Vijver said “much of the evidence is of a technical nature”. It apparently includes CCTV footage that allegedly implicates Mthethwa in the attack.
Defence advocate William Booth told the court there were problems gaining access to certain business premises which would “allow experts to finalise their reports”.
Booth insisted that the defence was not trying to delay the trial. But the group of sex workers who had made their way to the High Court and stood in the bitterly cold wind were not convinced. Asayk Anderson said “I’m feeling broken in my heart. There is no equality.”
Director of Sweat, Sally Shackleton said: “Sex workers experience violence on a daily basis, not just from clients, but from the police as well.” The sex workers’ rights group is calling on government to decriminalise sex work.
Kumalo’s mother Eva said she just wants to know why her daughter was killed. She said: “It’s my child, there is a pain inside me.”