The Limpopo man who was recently stabbed in a homophobic bar attack is terrified after his alleged assailant was released on bail.
Tshifhiwa Ramurunzi, 21, was attacked outside the bar in the town of Thohoyandou two weeks ago, reportedly because of his non-traditional gender appearance.
He was stabbed and left for dead on the ground in a pool of blood, surrounded by broken glass.
A few days later, when he reported the incident to the police, he was himself arrested because his alleged attacker had filed a charge of assault again him. Ramurunzi was released the next day and the charge was dropped.
On Tuesday, the suspect in the assault, named by activists as Maphuphe Vhutshilo, was set free on bail of R1000 by the Thohoyandou Magistrates’ Court. It appears he is at this point facing an assault charge, which the rights groups believe should be changed to attempted murder.
The activists say they are now not only in fear for Ramurunzi’s life but that they themselves were threatened outside the court, allegedly by the suspect’s friends.
“We were told we must leave the case and not assist or they will take our lives,” Cindy Maotoana, from Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out, told Mambaonline. “If my life is threatened then what is going to happen to the victim?” she asked.
Left to die: Tshifhiwa Ramurunzi after being attacked
Maotoana said that the traumatised Ramurunzi is afraid to return home and is staying in a safe house. “He is terrified. When we got back from court, he just went to bed to sleep. He is not coping.”
Victor Raedane, from the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Programme (TVEP), also believes that granting the suspect bail was irresponsible. “We are concerned for his [Ramurunzi’s] safety because this case has opened a can of worms; Venda is very rural and patriarchal.”
He added: “We are going to mobilise resources in order to make sure that our client is fully fought for and we will support him in any other way we can.”
Disturbingly, according to the activists, Vhutshilo has a previous assault conviction.
“We need to get clarity on why he got bail – it has put us all at risk,” Maotoana said.