REMEMBERING OUR SISTERS

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This year’s Joburg Pride theme is ‘Love, Not hate’, which aims to highlight the recent spate of brutal hate crimes against LGBT people. While we’ve read news stories about the lesbians who have been assaulted and killed because of their sexuality, they often remain just names or statistics. How much do we really know about these women? Here we hope to give some of the victims, who paid the ultimate price for their sexuality, a more human face.

ZOLISWA NKONYANA

Zoliswa Nkonyana was born in 1987 in Khayelitsha, Cape flats, where she went on to live as an openly lesbian woman. She was a member of the Winnie’s Soccer Club, which was established to try to keep young lesbians out of shebeens and other unsafe areas where they are often raped.

On the 4th of February 2006, while returning home from a local tavern in Khayelitsha, Zoliswa and a friend were attacked and threatened with rape for being lesbian by a mob of 20 men. While the friend escaped, Zoliswa was struck with bricks and bashed with golf clubs just a few meters from her house.

Her stepfather, Gcinumzi Mandindi, saw the murder from the back door of their home—unaware that the victim was the child he regarded as a daughter. When he realised that it was Zoliswa he rushed her in a friend’s car to hospital where she later died.

After her brutal killing, her mother, Monika Mandindi said, “I loved my daughter and knew she was a lesbian even when she was a little girl. Everyone here accepted her for what she was. My heart is broken; she was my only God-given child.”

Zoliswa Nkonyana was 19 years old.

SIZAKELE SIGASA & SALOME MASOOA

Sizakele Sigasa was a lesbian HIV/AIDS and LGBTI activist and an outreach coordinator at the Positive Women’s Network.

She is said to have played a prominent role, along with former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, during the formulation of the national strategic plan to fight HIV and Aids, persuading her to prioritise issues dealing with lesbian and gay rights.

Fifteen months before her death, Sizakele found a romantic partner in Susan Pheto. “I will never stop loving you,” Susan pledged at Sizakele’s memorial. Sizakele lived in Meadowlands, Soweto along with her lesbian friend Salome Masooa.

On the 7th of July 2007 Sizakele and Salome’s bodies were found next to a dump site in Meadowlands.

Sizakele had her hands tied with her underpants while her ankles were tied with her shoelaces. She had three bullet holes in her head and three in her collarbone.

Salome sustained a single gunshot wound to her head. They were both tortured and possibly raped before being killed.

Sizakele Sigasa was 34 years old. Salome Masooa was 23 years old.

EUDY SIMELANE

Daughter of Khotso and Mali Simelane, Eudy Simelane lived with her family at house number 1008 Tornado section, in KWA Thema. She was involved in many activities, most famously being a midfielder for the South African National Women’s soccer team, Banyana Banyana.

After leaving the team she continued to coach four soccer teams in her area. She was also studying towards becoming a referee.

Most exciting of all, Eudy was due to start a new permanent job as a merchandiser for a pharmaceutical company in Pretoria. She would finally have a regular income, medical aid and security for her family. She had also found happiness with a partner.

On the 28 of April 2008, Eudy’s body was discovered lying face down in a shallow river less than 200 metres from her home. She had been gang-raped and repeatedly stabbed.

Almost 2 000 people attended her funeral. Speaking about the fact that her family had come to accept her sexuality, Eudy’s mother said: “We didn’t have a choice. After all she was our daughter.”

Eudy Simelane was 31 years old.

To-date no significant public figure or politician has condemned the killings. The mainstream media has largely ignored these murders. Courts cases, where they have been initiated, have been characterised by continued bureaucratic delays and official incompetence. To-date no-one has been convicted of any of these murders.

WALL OF REMEMBRANCE AT JOBURG PRIDE

You can play a part in commemorating the victims of homophobic hate crimes at Saturday’s Joburg Gay Pride Parade and Celebration at Zoo Lake Sports Club through the Wall of Remembrance, curated by the Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA).

Joburg Pride calls on everyone to bring mementoes, prayers, poems, flowers, artworks and messages of support to be placed at or on the wall. The messages and objects will be kept by GALA for posterity; ensuring that the Wall of Remembrance becomes part of LGBT history.

Compiled with the assistance of Joburg Pride and Behind the Mask.

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