The capital city saw two significant protests on Tuesday to highlight the ongoing denial of justice for many LGBTI victims of hate crimes.
The first was held in Hatfield outside the offices of OUT LGBT Well-being and Access Chapter 2, both partner organisations in the national Love Not Hate campaign.
The initiative has over the past month highlighted five long-standing LGBTI-related hate crime cases in which justice has been denied or is incomplete.
The “5-Justice Denied” campaign was launched in the wake of a fresh set of murders of LGBTI people in recent weeks: 28-year-old Nonkie Smous in Kroonstad; 26-year-old Enrico “Tamara” van der Merwe in De Doorns; 27-year-old Lerato Moloi in Soweto; and 26-year-old Stephen Nketsi in Bloemfontein.
As passing cars hooted in support, around 80 protestors held up signs along the busy Pretorius Street demanding justice for LGBTI people.
The demonstrators then moved on to another protest, organised by the DA, outside the SAPS offices in Sunnyside.
“With these protests, we are saying enough is enough,” Lerato Phalakatshela, Hate Crime Manager at OUT, told the crowd.
“We need the police to give our cases more attention; we need the police to stop ridiculing us when we report these cases in police stations. We are tired of secondary victimisation, we are tired of not being seen as important people.”
Phalakatshela insisted: “We are not secondary citizens! We are important like every other South African.”
DA MP and Shadow Deputy Minister of Police Marius Redelinghuys, who attended the second protest, condemned the authorities for their lack of action.
“Queer lives and women’s lives do not matter to this government. We must now stand up and build on the great work done by our predecessors, from Simon Nkoli to OUT to Triangle Project… and say that queer lives matter!”
MP Marius Redelinghuys
He continued: “I’m not just here as a member of the DA, I’m not just here as a member of parliament… I am also here because I am queer as fuck! And you’re not going to change that.
“And I hope that [Police Minister] Fikile Mbalula is listening and tweeting about this because unless you are going to start doing something, we will take it into our own hands.”
Redelinghuys also spoke out about the ineffectiveness of the National Task Team on LGBTI violence that was announced by the Justice Department in 2011. A Rapid Response Team to monitor and fast track LGBTI hate crime cases was also launched by the department in 2014 and has largely failed to deliver results.
“Three years down the line, nothing has happened from that,” said Redelinghuys. “We are told that there is a rapid response team. Where is that rapid response team when we read that black lesbian women are being raped… that men who choose to express their true identity are being chased out of town, but not before they are beaten to a pulp?
“And then you go to the police and there’s no sensitivity, there’s no understanding… there’s no appreciation for the diversity that is this country,” he said.
Phalakatshela added: “The aim of these protests is to show the police and everyone in the country that LGBTI people are people… To ask the police to hear us because a lot of people are being killed – a lot of women, a lot of women who are lesbian – so these are vulnerable groups that need to be given more attention and need to be protected.”
A petition was signed by the protest participants calling for the police to “speed up” the investigations of hate crime cases, to treat victims “with dignity” and to ensure that justice is served.
A recent hate crime study by OUT and the Love Not Hate campaign found that 41% of LGBT people in South Africa know someone who’s been murdered due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Late last year, the Department of Justice released draft legislation to formalise hate crimes as a distinct form of crime. The bill remains under consideration.