Trial delayed for lesbian murder suspects

By Time of article published May 20, 2008

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By Natasha Joseph

Nine men accused of stabbing, kicking and beating a woman to death two years ago because she was living openly as a lesbian will have to wait until August for their trial to begin.

News of the delay drew angry mutterings from the accused and their supporters in the Khayelitsha magistrate's court and enraged gender and human rights activists picketing the building.

Zoliswa Nkonyana, 19, was murdered by a mob of 20 men in February 2006.

Nine of the men alleged to have taken part in the attack appeared in court on Monday. The nine appeared relaxed as they crowded into the dock. Two of them, who were minors at the time of the attack, are out on bail.

Some of the men turned to wave and smile at people in the public gallery, while others talked among themselves.

The nine are being represented by six lawyers.

Magistrate Raadiyah Wathen reprimanded one of the defence lawyers for contributing to repeated delays in the case.

The trial could have begun late last month, but was delayed when a lawyer for one of the men failed to arrive for the hearing.

All six defence lawyers were present on Monday, allowing the magistrate to set August 22 as the first day of the trial.

Prosecutor Alfred Isaacs said it was "shocking" the matter had not yet come to trial. The men were arrested shortly after Nkonyana's murder.

Outside the court, representatives of Campaign 07-07-07, including members of the Treatment Action Campaign, the Triangle Project and the Commission on Gender Equality, waved placards warning against homophobia and hate crimes.

Campaign 07-07-07 was launched in the Western Cape in February by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex organisations and groups dealing with HIV and Aids and gender issues.

The Commission on Gender Equality was "monitoring the case" and "making sure people (involved in the case) were doing their jobs", commission member Yvette Abrahams told the small but vocal crowd of about 60.

Last year, Human Rights Watch called on President Thabo Mbeki to do more to protect all women, including lesbians, after the murder of three lesbians in a month.

The bodies of Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were found in Soweto on July 8 last year, and that of Thokozane Qwabe in a field in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, on July 22.

Saturday was International Day Against Homophobia.

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