Zoliswa Nkonyane

The trial of the men accused of murdering lesbian teenager Zoliswa Nkonyane has finally begun.

Almost three years after witnessing the brutal murder of her friend, Phindiswa Magxala finally testified in the Khayelitsha Regional Court on Friday.

The two women were attacked by a mob in February 2006. While Magxala was able to escape the crowd, she said that 19 year old Nkonyane was beaten with a brick then stabbed to death.

Family, relatives and friends who packed court C, listened in horror and one member broke down in tears.

Magxala claimed that she and Nkonyane were attacked because of their sexual orientation, saying that “lesbians are not wanted in Khayelitsha.”

She also testified that there were more than ten men and four women involved in the attack and she confirmed that all nine co-accused, most of whom she knew by name, were present during the assault.

Magxala said that the four women had taunted her and Nkonyane and goaded the men to attack them.

As part of the proceedings, a site visit was conducted to visit key sites and plot the movements of all involved during the incident. This tour, made by Magistrate Watten, the senior public prosecutor, all six defence attorneys and the accused men was followed by a crowd of curious onlookers.

The nine co-accused each face three charges; one of murder and two of attempted murder. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges. They remain in custody and will appear in court again on the 20th of March 2009 when the trial resumes.

Although family, activists and community members welcomed the progress in the case after nearly three years of delays they were concerned by the three month gap between the first hearing and the next.

Around 200 activists from various organisations and networks gathered outside the court to show their solidarity and to protest against violence against women and lesbians in particular.

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