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Gay man killed in Cape Town as Parliament considers Hate Crimes Bill

Unathi Weba was allegedly killed by a man who discovered he was “not a girl”. Picture: SUPPLIED

Unathi Weba was allegedly killed by a man who discovered he was “not a girl”. Picture: SUPPLIED

Published May 22, 2022

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THE family of a man allegedly murdered for being gay is calling for justice as Parliament continues to ponder the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which has been on the cards for four years.

Yesterday, 21-year-old Unathi Weba was buried at his home in the Eastern Cape, two weeks after he was strangled to death in Khayelitsha by another man after the perpetrator found out that he was “not a girl”.

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The suspect, Siwaphiwe Paul, 27, appeared at the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday where he was released on R1 000 bail.

Weba was the latest victim in a growing list of killings targeting the LGBTQI community.

A family member, Mziwonke Mnothoza, said Weba left home on May 9 with a friend to go and enjoy themselves at a nearby establishment.

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He never came back.

“We were woken up by community members in the early hours of the morning to tell us that his body was found in a shack (at) the Island informal settlement. Apparently he had left the place where they were enjoying themselves with a man who took him to his shack.

“(We heard) during the interrogation of the suspect he admitted that he strangled him because he discovered that he was not a girl,” said Mnothoza.

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Mnothoza said the family wanted justice and for the law to take its course in dealing with the man accused of killing Weba.

“Unathi was a friendly person, he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he explained.

Weba had only been in Cape Town for five months after leaving his Gqeberha home to further his education.

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“When he could not find a place at the local institutions he decided to search for a job while he would continue applying for the next academic year,” he said.

Sonke Gender Justice co-executive director Bafana Khumalo condemned the latest killing, adding that a “strong legal framework” was essential to deal with hate crimes.

“There’s currently nothing deterring these attacks on the LGBTQI community. We need to strengthen the legal process so that those who carry out these brutal attacks face the full might of the law,” said Khumalo.

“We still have conservative people in our patriarchal communities. Their comments and views are not welcoming to the LGBTQI (community). We still have people who think those with different sexual orientation deserve the hate crimes and attitudes.”

But Khumalo said through engagements with cultural and religious leaders there was a gradual shift in perceptions and tolerance.

Co-founder of advocacy group Free Gender, Funeka Soldaat, called for tolerance of the queer community.

“We acknowledge that the justice system has its role to play in addressing hate crimes. But we also need the community to come on board in respecting and fostering a human rights culture.

“We’ve seen an outcry against gender-based violence and xenophobic incidents. But there’s a different approach when it comes to the LGBTQI community. People become intolerant and silent.

“We call for urgent action to bring the hate crimes to an end. We need a supportive community too,” she said.

Weba’s killing comes amid an increase in violent attacks against the LGBTQI community.

In a submission to Parliament’s portfolio committee on justice and correctional services, the Triangle Project and Women's Legal Centre said that between 2019 and 2021 around 28 hate crimes against the LGBTQI+ community across the country were published in the media.

In the Western Cape, these included victims such as Liyabona Mabishi, who was stabbed 13 times in Khayelitsha, Robyn Montsumi, who died in police custody, Kirvan Fortuin, Lonwabo Jack, Lindokuhle Mapu, Phelokazi Mqathanya and Lulama Mvandaba.

The bill seeks to give effect to the Constitution and the Republic’s obligations regarding prejudice and intolerance in terms of international law.

In its 2021 letter to the Speaker of Parliament, the Hate Crimes Working Group noted that since the revival of the bill in October 2019, there had been a “shocking number of reports of brutally violent crimes against LGBTQI people” and those represented the “tip of the iceberg”.

“We are encouraged that the bill has reached this important stage and are now anxious that it is passed and implemented as speedily as possible.

“We also strongly urge the portfolio committee to not allow this opportunity to pass it by and to ensure that this legislation includes meaningful time frames and reporting structures that deliver on its long-awaited promise,” said the Triangle Project.

The organisation emphasised the importance of the bill in ensuring that the rights and values to equality and dignity were upheld as guaranteed in the Constitution and urged the portfolio committee to adopt an approach that recognised and restored to the LGBTQI community their sense of belonging in South Africa.

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