Zoliswa Nkonyana

Activists have welcomed the court’s acknowledgement that Zoliswa Nkonyana’s sexual orientation played a role in her murder – said to be a first.

On Friday, four men, Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Londzi and Mbulelo Damba, were convicted of the openly-lesbian Nkonyana’s murder in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court.

In her judgement, Magistrate Raadiya Whaten acknowledged the role of sexual orientation and gender expression in the men’s motivation for killing the 19-year-old.

“This is the first trial in which this has been directly stated in a trial judgment in South Africa,” said Jill Henderson from Cape Town’s Triangle Project.

The organisation, however said that the fact that only four of the nine men originally arrested for the murder were convicted “has left us and others feeling ambivalent about the outcome” of the trial.

The other five men were acquitted of the murder due to lack of evidence.

Despite the trial finally coming close to a conclusion, Triangle Project said that it still supports demands for an independent investigation into the criminal justice system in Khayelitsha due to the 40 delays over five years that plagued the case.

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 – at least in part for being a lesbian.

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