Two large South African unions have condemned the ongoing epidemic of hate crime attacks on lesbian women across the country.

On Wednesday, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) was the first to condemn the brutal rape and murder of Noxola Nogwaza in Kwa-Thema township outside of Johannesburg last week. It was followed by the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu).

Nogwaza’s body was found on April 24th. Her face and head were smashed by large bricks and she had been stabbed several times with broken glass. It appears that she was also raped.

“This is the highest form of brutality and barbarism meted on a fellow human being for her sexual orientation and [for] a choice to be in an intimate relationship with a same-sex being,” said Numsa in a statement, in which it also expressed its condolences to her family and friends.

“This heinous and dastardly killing of Nogwaza is a reflection of the deep-seated homophobia and intolerance directed towards gay or lesbian people by some male chauvinists remnants in… post apartheid South Africa,” said the union.

Satawu also expressed its “abhorrence at the murders, rapes and assaults inflicted on gays and lesbians in our communities during the present period,” and demanded “that those responsible for these criminal acts be brought to justice”.

Numsa added that homophobia is against “the noble objectives of a non-sexist society as envisaged in the Freedom Charter. We call on the ANC Women’s League to be in the forefront in sharpening the awareness of our people around the rights of gays [and] lesbians.

“Our continued silence on the rights of gays and lesbians will gradually make South Africa another Zimbabwe or Namibia where gay and lesbian rights are being trampled upon by their governments”.

Numsa slammed the justice system for “continuously” failing the LGBT community through “insensitive law enforcement agencies, repeated postponement of trials and delaying sentencing”.

Satawu echoed this sentiment and insisted that “the South African government must declare ‘corrective rape’ a hate crime that is punishable by the harshest sentences”.

Numsa has around 232 000 members and Satawu around 82,000 members.

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