Highlighting discrimination faced by LGBT people in the public health care system, a gay Johannesburg man says he was attacked by a security guard at a Hillbrow clinic because of his sexual identity.
Alfred Msimanga, 28, told Mambaonline that he went to the clinic on 6 May because he was not feeling well.
“When I got there I greeted the security guards. I [asked them] which queue I needed to join. And they just gave me an attitude,” said Msimanga.
“I was told to go to the back, which I did. But minutes later I saw other people getting help. I wasn’t feeling well and I asked [again] if I had joined the right queue”.
The response was not a friendly one, he claims: “You know when they start mocking gay people? The security guards were like, ‘Why are you speaking in a woman’s voice? Why are you behaving like a woman?’”
Msimanga said the three guards then started “name calling” him in front of other patients. “The one said he wouldn’t be surprised if the whole place smelled like a mortuary because us gay people are sick – we have all those crazy diseases…”
Msimanga told the guards that their comments were inappropriate but alleges that he was only harassed further.
“When I went to join the queue again, I was told [by the guards] that I won’t get any help because I know too much of my rights… [One] security guard said he would show me that he’s in charge and that gay people are not allowed in there.”
Disturbed by these events, Msimanga left and went to the Charlotte Maxeke hospital for treatment. After waiting in another long queue, he was sent back to the Hillbrow clinic because the hospital only admits patients who are referred to it.
Msimanga returned to Hillbow and once again joined a queue at the clinic. He was finally seen by a doctor, whom he told about the abuse.
“She said to me that I should just ignore them because that’s what they normally do – they provoke people.” After being examined, he was sent to open a file and get medication. That’s, he said, when the security guards “came after me…”
According to Msimanga, the same guard as before told him “he would show me how real men behave.” Msimanga ignored him and pretended to take selfies to defuse the situation. Instead, he alleges, the man “came after me and started hitting me… he slapped me.”
Msimanga tried to escape. “I ran from the reception to inside the hospital. Patients were jumping off their beds… no one was helping me. Instead his colleagues were begging me to apologise to him. I couldn’t understand: Why would I apologise if I am the one being assaulted for nothing?”
Msimanga said that the abuse lasted for about 20 minutes – with the man “hitting me, pushing me against the wall, punching me” – until he was taken to another room by a hospital porter. There, the allegedly violent security guard’s colleagues accused Msimanga of taking pictures of them with his cellphone.
“I told them that there were no pictures but they were telling, who gave me the right to take pictures? Who do I think I am?” He alleges further that he was again threatened with violence by the same security guard.
Msimanga was able to extract himself from the situation and went back to the doctor who saw him earlier to have his injuries looked at. He then went to the police and reported the incident but was told to go back to the clinic to have a form filled out by the doctor as evidence.
He had the form completed but faced further humiliation. “I was just the laughing stock at the clinic. Everybody was laughing. [I heard] the security guard being praised for disciplining the homosexual guy, and that he did a great job.”
The following day he returned to the police station with the form to lay charges against the security guard. Msimanga went with officers to the clinic to arrest the man. He claims that when they arrived, the other guards accused him of being rude and provoking their colleague, but denied there had been an assault. The doctor was not at the clinic to back up Msimanga’s story.
The guard, said Msimanga, was interviewed by the police and was released pending the matter going to court. “That was the last time I heard from the police since I opened the case. No one has ever contacted me…”
Msimanga claims that as a result of the assault he has experienced numbness and pain in his hand, arm and chest and that he can’t type properly at work. He returned to the clinic on Sunday because he was still not feeling well and saw that the security guard who allegedly assaulted him was still working there.
“I’m trying to get justice served. I want to put a stop to this because the same thing will happen to another person and nothing will be done,” said Msimanga.
He added that it was especially upsetting “to be assaulted by someone who is supposed to protect people who are coming into a clinic.”
Msimanga has given Mambaonline the name of the guard whom he alleges beat him. He also believes that there is CCTV footage that will confirm his version of the incident.
Mambaonline was unable to contact the Hillbrow clinic. We, however, reached out to the Gauteng Department of Health about the alleged assault. We were asked for more details about Msimanga, including his identity number, “so that we can speedily assist you”. This was promptly supplied to media relations officer Patricia Mokoena.
At the time of publishing this article there was no further feedback or response from the department, despite a follow up reminder e-mail.