Durban - As Human Rights Month ended, Sphamandla Khoza’s family learnt that he was killed in an alleged hate crime which sparked outrage, calls for justice and marches.
Last week, the 34-year-old’s body was discovered in a ditch near his home in Ntuzuma. Khoza’s throat was slit and he was stabbed multiple times.
His death was suspected to be a homophobic hate crime by his family and the LGBTQI+ community. Khoza’s cousin Ndumiso Ngidi said the killing was allegedly perpetrated by men who knew, grew up with and lived in the same neighbourhood as Khoza.
“They ganged up on him, stabbed him repeatedly while he was out having fun in a neighbouring house. Not only did they murder him, but they also dumped his body. They took off his shoes and placed them in front of the gate at his home. They put him in a grave and used his shoes as some form of a trophy.
“If it wasn’t for blood trails leading to where they dumped his body and curious community members, we would have never found his body. All this happens after they insulted him about his sexuality.
“They treated him worse than a stray animal. I am angry and hurt. Such a beautiful life lost, all because of hate,” Ngidi said.
It was alleged that Khoza was the victim of verbal bullying over his sexual orientation the night before his body was discovered.
Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said a murder case was being investigated by Ntuzuma police following Khoza’s death and that a suspect was arrested and charged with the murder after turning himself in.
After Thando Mgenge, 25, turned himself in for Khoza’s murder, he made a brief appearance in the Ntuzuma Magistrate's Court where he will return on April 16 to make a bid for bail.
Last Sunday, Khoza was laid to rest, but days leading up to the funeral, the community took to the streets in peaceful marches and vigils. The community rallied to sing songs and made their presence known by waving the rainbow-coloured Pride flag.
Many community members said they were living in fear as they did not know if they could be the next victim of a hate crime.
and #Justiceforspha made waves as they trended on social media.
Broadcaster and political analyst Eusebius Mckaiser tweeted under the hashtag #Queer hatred must end: “This murder, motivated by hatred for someone else's sexuality, is vicious and evil beyond words.”
Dashiell Sears, director of advocacy and public policy at the International Association of Providers of Aids Care, tweeted: ”Fear and hate know no borders. We demand #LGBT protections in all communities as a human right. These perpetrators must be apprehended. #Justiceforsphamandla.”
Clinical psychologist and researcher Suntosh Pillay added his voice to the calls for justice by tweeting: “Queer people are under brutal attack in Kwazulu-natal. Lindokuhle Cele in umlazi, Nonhlanhla Kunene in Edendale and Sphamandla Khoza in Ntuzuma.
“These are only the few names the media has bothered to report on. The list of victims of homophobic violence and murder grows every day.”
The Gay and Lesbian Network, based in Pietermaritzburg, and Durban Pride, a human rights campaign by the LGBTI Community and Health Centre, condemned the killing and continued to call for tolerance.