Activists and community members gathered in Limpopo on Saturday to speak out against the scourge of LGBTI hate crimes in the province.
The LGBTI Dialogue event at the Polokwane Royal Hotel was hosted by the Chevrolet Feather Awards and saw around 150 people taking part.
A panel included representatives from OUT LGBT Well-being’s Love Not Hate campaign, the Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Project, the SA Human Rights Commission, Limpopo Proudly OUT, and Access Chapter 2.
The dialogue aimed to provide a platform for the LGBTI community in Limpopo to ask questions, engage and speak out about their experiences. The participants also held a minute’s silence to remember the victims of LGBTI hate crimes.
The event followed the recent attack on a young gay man, Tshifhiwa Ramurunzi, in the town of Thohoyandou. He was repeatedly stabbed and left for dead because of his feminine appearance. Ramurunzi, who is now on the mend, was one of those who took part in Saturday’s meeting.
“This was a much needed event,” commented OUT’s Hate Crime Manager Lerato Phalakatshela, whose work includes tracking hate crime cases around the country. At the meeting he encouraged the community to report hate crimes and to speak out against discrimination wherever it occurs.
Cindy Maotoana, from Limpopo LGBTI Proudly Out, told Mambaonline that among the highlights of the dialogue was the participation of LGBTI people from local villages.
“It was a space to express themselves, ask questions and have their concerns addressed. That was our target, to see the ones coming from the rural areas, not just the ones from town.”
She explained that this year’s Limpopo Pride march, scheduled for the same day, did not take place due to logistical issues and because of concerns around safety.
“Some of the participants were maybe not wanting to march on the streets and they felt this was a safer space,” she said, adding, “We are all scared of walking in the streets.”
Maotoana previously told Mambaonline that friends of the man accused of Ramurunzi’s stabbing had threatened her and her colleagues if they continued to support the victim in the case against his alleged attacker.
Participants also held a minute’s silence to remember victims of LGBTI hate crimes
The Limpopo event was the first of eight LGBTI dialogues in eight provinces being organised by the Feather Awards to mark its eighth anniversary.
Thami Dish, founder of the awards, expressed his satisfaction with the dialogue and the turnout. He went on to say that issues affecting transgender people in particular were brought to the fore at the event.
“Programmes need to be developed for trans members of the community. Some of the trans attendees asked about issues such as medical practices and how doctors treat them, as well as the use of bathrooms and university dorms.”
Dish revealed that the next LGBTI dialogue will take place in the Northern Cape town of Kuruman on 28 May. Mambaonline will provide more details as they become available.