Activists have welcomed the guilty verdict against the man accused of kidnapping and murdering Noluvo Swelindawo, an openly lesbian woman, in the Western Cape.
The body of 22-year-old Swelindawo, also known as Vovo, was found dumped next to the N2 highway near Khayelitsha in December 2016.
On Thursday, 26-year-old Sigcine Mdani, who was standing trial for abducting and killing the young woman, was found guilty of her murder by the Western Cape High Court.
He was also found guilty of kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, housebreaking, illegal possession of firearms, and illegal possession of ammunition.
Significantly, Judge Derek Wille found that the murder was motivated by Mdani’s intolerance towards Swelindawo’s sexual orientation.
This contradicts the claim by then Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu in 2016 that the murder was unrelated to the victim’s sexuality. Sotyu was criticised at the time by activists for preempting the trial with her “speculation”.
Mdani attacked and abducted Swelindawo from her Driftsands home after assaulting her in a tavern a few days earlier. Fearing for her life, Swelindawo’s terrified girlfriend, Nqabisa Mkatali, was forced to hide in the dwelling while her partner was dragged away in the middle of the night.
Mdani went on to shoot Swelindawo dead and dump her body next to the highway, under a footbridge.
While it’s believed that up to five other men were involved in the attack on Swelindawo’s home, Mdani was seen to be the primary actor in her abduction and murder. He was also found with the murder weapon and ammunition.
Sharon Cox, Health & Support Services Manager at Triangle Project, welcomed the verdict. “We are really satisfied that the person who was last seen with Vovo, who was holding the ‘smoking gun’, is the person who has been convicted,” she told Mambaonline.
“This judgement shows that an effective prosecution coupled with a dedicated investigating officer from the SAPS can deliver results.”
Cox applauded Mkatali’s bravery in testifying against the man who killed her partner, adding that this played a pivotal role in securing the conviction.
Mdani’s sentencing will begin on 12 February. “We will now continue to work with the NPA and others to ensure that Mndani receives the harshest possible sentence for this terrible crime,” said Cox.
In November 2016, the government published a draft Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which now appears to be in limbo. If passed, it will allow judges to include hatred against groups or communities as an aggravating factor in the sentencing of perpetrators of hate crimes.