The trial of the nine alleged murderers of 19 year old lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana, which began on Monday, has been postponed because a defence attorney failed to show up.
Magistrate Watton of the Khayelitsha Magistrates Court warned all six defence attorneys to be present at the next hearing noting that further delays in the case “would not be acceptable”.
The trial was postponed to 19 May 2008.
Director of Triangle Project, Vanessa Ludwig, said she was “outraged that more than two years after the brutal murder of Zoliswa Nkonyane the trial has not begun. Repeated delays not only deny justice for Zoliswa Nkonyane but also reflect badly on the state’s commitment to battle homophobia and hate crimes against LGBTI, women and children.”
About one hundred members and allies of the End Hate 07-07-07 Campaign were present at the court to demand justice for Nkonyana and called on the court to ensure that the perpetrators were punished.
Representatives from LGBTI organizations from the Western Cape, Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal maintained a presence inside and conducted a peaceful protest outside the court to demand “Justice for Zoliswa – End Hate Crimes Against LGBTI.”
Commissioner Yvette Abrahams of the Commission for Gender Equality said that it was important for the case to include the sexual orientation issue as a motivating factor in the killing of Nkonyane. Ignoring this, she said, would “invisibilise the right of lesbian women in enjoying their freedom to sexual rights.”
Phumi Mtetwa, Director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, welcomed the caution issued by the judge, saying that “these delays impact immensely on wasted state resources and the delivery of justice. Also important is the delayed message from our courts to all perpetrators that violence against people because of their identities is unacceptable. The continuous killing of black lesbians undermines our democracy.”
Zoliswa Nkonyana was beaten, stoned and stabbed to death by a group of around 20 men in Khayelitsha on 4 February 2006 – reportedly for being a lesbian.