Zoliswa Nkonyana

Activists have testified in court that the sentencing of the men found guilty of murdering lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana in 2006 must reflect the extremely brutal nature of the crime.

After almost six years and over 40 delays, the sentencing of Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Londzi and Mbulelo Damba has been set for Wednesday 1 February by the Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court in the Western Cape.

In October last year they were found guilty of stoning and stabbing 19-year-old Nkonyana to death in Khayelitsha because she was openly lesbian.

Yesterday, representatives from activist groups Triangle Project and Free Gender took the stand in court.

They recommended that the sentencing reflect the extremely brutal nature of this crime and that Nkonyana’s sexuality be explicitly named by the court as an aggravating factor.

Triangle Project stated that that one of the major reasons why crimes of violence based on hate and discrimination are taken very seriously within the criminal justice system of other countries is because of the severe and wide-ranging impact of such violence on communities and society as a whole.

Crimes such as the murder of Nkonyana “terrorise the collective by victimising the individual” the organisation said.

Funeka Soldaat of Free Gender testified that Nkonyana never had the opportunity to fulfil her dreams and talked about the impact that Nkonyana’s murder had on her mother and the lesbian community in Khayelitsha.

She spoke about the harassment faced by activists outside the court during trial proceedings and also asked that the Court impose a stern sentence.

The prosecutor acknowledged the fact that the four men convicted of the murder were juveniles at the time of the murder, but she described their actions as a “group murder governed by hate” and drew on the South African Constitution to argue that the right to life, dignity and equality was paramount.

She called for long-term imprisonment of not less than 15 years, given the brutal nature of the crime, the underlying motive of discrimination based on sexual orientation and the fact that none of the convicted men have ever taken any responsibility or demonstrated remorse for the crime.

In December, following multiple delays in the trial and alleged incompetence by the police in its investigations, civil society groups filed a legal complaint demanding that Western Cape Premier Helen Zille institute a commission of inquiry into the Khayelitsha criminal justice system.

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