Two of the nine men accused of the murder of 19-year-old lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana in 2006 were acquitted and freed on Wednesday in the Western Cape.
Magistrate Raadiya Whaten ruled that the state had not provided sufficient evidence to link Anele Gwele and Zolile Kobese to the brutal murder.
LGBTI and gender activists from the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Free Gender, Triangle Project and Sonke Gender Justice voiced their discontent with the news outside the court.
The organisations have accused the police of initially carrying out their investigations slowly and poorly. The case has been characterised by repeated delays, almost 40, and has lasted over five years. Defence attorneys routinely missed court dates without any repercussions.
“Nkonyana was denied her constitutional rights to, amongst others, equality, human dignity, life, freedom and security of the person. Her family has been denied their constitutional right to just administrative action, and as a result have suffered years of prolonged trauma,” the groups said in an earlier statement.
The remaining seven men will continue to stand trial for Nkonyana’s murder although they have already been acquitted of charges of attempted murder of a witness in the case.
Murder accused Mbulelo Damba, Luyanda Londzi, Sicelo Mase, Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Mfundo Kulani, Themba Dlephu and Sabelo Yekiso are expected to appear in the Khayelitsha Regional Court again on Friday.
Nkonyana was beaten, stoned and stabbed to death by a group of around 20 men in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape on 4 February 2006 – just meters from her home – allegedly for being a lesbian.