After months of delays, the murder trial of the men accused of killing former Banyana Banyana lesbian soccer player Eudy Simelane is now finally underway.
After another brief postponement on Wednesday, the trial finally began at 10.30am on Thursday at the Delmas High Court to a packed courtroom, which included Simelane’s girlfriend and family.
Thirty-one-year-old Simelane was assaulted, raped and murdered in the Tornado section of Kwa Thema in Johannesburg’s East Rand at the end of April 2008. Four men have been charged with murder, assault and robbery, and attempt to commit rape.
According to reports by LGBT rights researcher Dipika Nath, posted on the Human Rights Watch website, one of the four men, Thato Mphiti, pleaded guilty to the first two charges and to another charge of “being an accomplice to the attempt to commit rape”.
The other three men, Khumbulani Magagula, Johannes Mahlangu and Themba Mvubu, pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In his confession, Mphiti said that after drinking in a tavern for a few hours, the men came across Simelane walking with some friends at around one in the morning on 28 April 2008. They decided to rob her, but when they found that she had no money, they instead decided to rape her.
When the men realised that Simelane had recognised Mvubu, they decided to kill her. “I panicked because I didn’t want to be arrested and I stabbed the deceased,” said Mphiti, reports The Star.
According to testimony by the medical examiner, Simelane had been stabbed eight times, including in her neck, abdomen, and thighs.
The court announced that the trial would be split into two cases: one to decide on the sentence for Mphiti and another, headed by a new judge, to try the other three men. The latter trial is set to start on July 29.
Mphiti is expected to be sentenced today. The state prosecutor has called for a life sentence.