A man has been arrested in connection with this weekend’s brutal murder of Noluvo Swelindawo; a young lesbian woman who was abducted by a mob from her home.
According to new reports, up to eleven men burst into Swelindawo’s home in Driftsands near Khayelitsha on Saturday night and dragged her away.
Her family, partner Nqabisa Mkatali, and neighbours fruitlessly searched for the young woman, also known as Vovo, throughout the night before her body was discovered the next day alongside the N2 highway with a gunshot wound.
Sharon Cox, Triangle Project’s Health and Support Services Manager, told Mambaonline that a man has now been arrested in connection with the 22-year-old’s killing. The man, believed to be from the same community, is alleged to be the main perpetrator in the murder.
Although a motive is not yet confirmed, Cox said the organisation is working with the community and Swelindawo’s family and partner to investigate the suspected hate crime.
Zuko Mnukwa, leader of the Sikhumbule Safe Space in Driftsands, said that Swelindawo was an activist and member of the group and was known in the community as being lesbian. He believes that she was targeted because of her sexuality.
“She worked in a shop in town. She was very independent and she liked socialising, but with the LGBTI. There is a small group of gays and lesbians in Driftsands and we are always together,” he said.
Speaking to Mambaonline, activist Funeka Soldaat, from the group FreeGender Khayelitsha, said that news of Swelindawo’s murder had left her devastated.
She said that the recently published Hate Crimes Bill will not on its own make a major difference to the continued attacks against LGBTI people and that more interventions need to happen within communities.
“Structures like street committees and other structures must be aware of LGBTI individuals in the community,” Soldaat explained. “Public dialogues with those structures around issues of homophobia and hate crimes must happen.”
Mnukwa, however, is angry that the Driftsands community did not do more to protect Swelindawo and failed to come forward with the names of her alleged attackers, despite ongoing engagements.
“We have had countless community dialogues and awareness campaigns to educate people about LGBTI issues and tolerance. I felt protected in Driftsands,” he said. “For them to protect the identities of these men and not to come out and help her when she was screaming at night for help, I feel betrayed.”
The murder was committed during the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children (25 November to 10 December). It also follows the release by the Love Not Hate campaign of a disturbing new report on discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people in South Africa.
It found that 44% of those surveyed had experienced discrimination in the past two years. Of those, 7% had been hit kicked or punched and 6% had been sexually abused or raped. Shockingly, 41% of those surveyed revealed that they knew of someone who had been murdered due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
On Tuesday, the South African government spoke out against Swelindawo’s murder on Twitter: “Government condemns the killing of #NoluvoSwelindawo in an alleged hate crime. Discrimination against anyone is wrong!”
GaySA Radio, Africa’s only LGBTI radio station, has called for a Day of Outrage on Saturday to protest against the brutal and senseless murder: “Express your outrage, speak about what can be done, engage family and friends, take action. Take over social media, your home, your neighbourhood, your community. Join the call that says NO MORE.”