A Swazi lesbian activist, who was thrust into the spotlight last year after announcing her engagement to a woman, has reportedly confessed to her partner’s murder.

Thuli Rudd, also known as Thulani, was arrested on the 29th of December last year and charged with the murder of her partner, Pitseng Vilakati.

It is believed that Vilakati, whose body was found on the 22nd of December at the Ngwane Park cemetery, was stabbed to death.

The Times of Swaziland has reported that Rudd, who is the head of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Swaziland, later confessed to the murder in the Magistrate’s Court in Manzini, although the newspaper did not reveal any details of the confession.

LGBT activists have complained that Rudd’s sexuality and relationship with Vilakati have led the case to be reported irresponsibly by the media.

Monica Mbaru of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in Africa expressed concern that Rudd is being tried and convicted by the media and the public before the investigation has been completed and that a strong possibility of this being a hate crime by homophobic persons may be ignored in the haste to prove Thulani’s guilt.

The Coalition of African Lesbians said that it “strongly condemns” the murder and called on the state to exercise fairness and to ensure that homophobia not be allowed to permeate and colour the case.

“Thulani has the constitutional right to innocence until proved guilty following thorough investigation and a fair trial,” said the organisation.

Both groups said that they would carefully monitor and document the trial to ensure that justice is served, both for Rudd and for the late Vilakati.

Rudd and Vilakati caused a media storm in Swaziland in August 2009 when they went public with their engagement. According to activists and friends, they were under extraordinary pressure and faced a largely hostile public reaction.

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