Wednesday’s Freedom Day was a hollow celebration for the LGBT community, following the murder of a gay Vosloorus man who was stabbed and brutally assaulted with a pole.
Mambaonline had learned that 27-year-old Tebogo Mokhoto was killed on the 1st of April in a bloody attack on the East Rand, during which he was anally raped with a wooden object.
According to Matshidiso Mofokeng from Vosloo Activators, a community based LGBTI group, Mokhoto returned home after a night out to find his house being burgled by a group of men.
The four men, two of whom it’s believed he knew, then killed the young man; cutting his throat and stabbing him multiple times. At some point he had a stick or wooden pole of some kind shoved into his rectum.
Mofokeng told Mambaonline that one of the suspects later told his girlfriend what he had done. She in turn called the police to report the murder. In a shocking claim, Mofokeng said that police ignored the report and failed to investigate the crime or visit Mokhoto’s home for two days.
It was allegedly only after the suspect turned himself in to the police that, on the 5th of April, officers went to the scene of the crime. They found Mokhoto’s decomposing body shoved under under his bed.
Four men, two of whom are said to be underage, have since been arrested for the murder. They will appear in court on the 3rd and 4th of May, with a separate trial expected for the alleged killers who are minors.
Unbelievably, Mofokeng further claims that police did not take the wooden item that was inserted into the victim from the scene of the crime as evidence.
Fearing police incompetence, activists have taken their own pictures of the scene in the hope that these could be used as evidence in the trial. Mambaonline has seen an image of the bloody pole but has chosen not to publish it.
While Mokhoto’s murder appears to have been initiated as a result of a break-in, Mofokeng believes that the victim’s rape indicates that his sexuality undoubtedly played a part in his death.
“People knew that he was gay in the community,” said Mofokeng about the young man. “Tebogo was a churchgoer, unemployed, a quiet guy. People are shocked.”
In a statement, the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) cited Mokhoto’s murder, as well as that of openly lesbian Lucia Naido in March, as examples of the “many reported and unreported cases of violence against LGBTI people in South Africa that demonstrate the denial of our human dignity, freedom of movement and right to life”.
The group added: “Freedom Day for us is a sad day as we continue to live in fear. Freedom Day is just a myth for LGBTI people as we have no cause for celebrating.”
FEW urged communities “to speak out against homophobic and transphobic violence, to come forward as witnesses and assist police with these cases, and to recognise the human suffering caused by such prejudice, as well as their effect on loved ones and our society at large”.
The group further called on the criminal justice system to speed up the investigations and prosecutions of these cases.
The South African government has promised to unveil long-awaited hate crime legislation in the coming weeks. The much-vaunted government-led “Rapid Response Team”, which is meant to monitor and fast track LGBTI related hate crimes, however, last met almost a year ago.