South Africa is celebrating 19 years of freedom on the 27th of April. But with violations and hate crime murders against the LGBTIQA community on the increase, are we really supposed to celebrate?

On 24 April, EPOC (Ekurhuleni Pride Organising Committee) and Amnesty South Africa held a commemoration service for one of the victims of hate crimes in KwaThema, Johannesburg.

In the early hours of the morning on 24 April 2011, Noxolo Nogwaza (“Noxolo”) was gang raped, stoned to a point where her face was disfigured and subsequently stabbed to death for being a lesbian.

Noxolo was a revered LGBTIQA activist, a daughter, a mother of two young children and a friend to many.

Two years after her death, no arrests have been made. No one in the community has come forward with concrete evidence because they fear for their lives. EPOC has been following the case and demanding justice, to no avail.

The commemoration was attended by Noxolo’s mother, various LBGTIQA organisations, community members as well as Eudy Simelane’s mother. Eudy was also a hate crime murder victim in KwaThema in 2008.

The service was held where Noxolo’s body was found. Friends, activists and community members offered words of encouragement to Noxolo’s mother and celebrated her life and work.

Messages were received via social networks from people all around the world, demanding justice for Noxolo’s brutal murder.

The councillor of KwaThema was invited to offer insight as to the developments regarding the murder case; however, he did not attend. After some inquiries on the day, he sent a representative who offered very little information as to where the case stands. The SAPS was also not in attendance.

We then heard of another lesbian murder that had happened just days earlier, that of Patricia Mashego from Daveyton, east of Johannesburg.

The body of Patricia, a 36-year-old lesbian mother of two teenage children, was found near a school in Daveyton last weekend. She was also killed with bricks and stones and her pants were found open and pulled down. No forensic report is available at this stage.

This epidemic is sweeping through the LGBTIQA community and the government has done very little to curb this new evil that is claiming the lives of many of us.

Noxolo Nogwaza and Patricia Mashego

Many victims of hate crimes were mentioned at the commemorations who are still awaiting justice. Members of the LGBTIQA community found themselves protesting out of anger and frustration as well as sadness at the ongoing inaction.

The service was both a demand for justice and a celebration of Noxolo’s and other victims’ lives. 

South Africa has no legislation criminalising hate crimes and this has had the effect that very little justice has been done for many victims who have lost their lives.

At the event, LGBTIQA organisations and individuals expressed their dedication to seeing justice for all victims of hate crimes. They sang songs that expressed their grief, one of which states that “Noxolo is not resting but is on her knees until justice is served.”

The South African government is still yet to launch a campaign raising awareness against hate crimes and they have yet to draft legislation that will protect the LGBTIQA minority against these brutal crimes. Why should be celebrate? Are we really free?

Rest in Peace Patricia Masego.

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