Pic: Barbara Maregele
Over 800 people, mostly from the Lwandle community near Strand, have signed a petition against the release of a man accused of murdering Noxolo Xakeka who was lesbian.
Activist group Triangle Project handed in the petition at the Strand Magistrates’ Court on Thursday where the 26-year-old accused, Bongile Joni, made his second appearance.
In the early hours of 1 January, Xakeka came home from night shift and joined a party with her partner and friends, less than 250 metres from her home.
It is alleged that Joni harassed her by making “derogatory comments” about her sexual orientation. An argument between the two escalated into a physical altercation. Witnesses say Xakeka hit Joni with a plank. He stabbed her twice. She died in hospital hours later. She was 23.
Xakeka’s parents have since moved to Cape Town from the Eastern Cape to care for her six-year-old son.
In court on Thursday, four police officers wearing bulletproof vests stood near the public gallery and entrance to the room while the accused was in the dock. Monja Posthumus-Meyjes, lawyer at the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic, handed the petition to the court on behalf of Triangle Project to have the accused’s bail revoked. She said that it was “not the first time a hate crime has occurred in the community”.
But Magistrate Karen Scheepers said she could only consider the petition once a formal opposing application was filed. Scheepers told the court that the accused had been released on warning at his first appearance on 4 January. She postponed the matter until 23 May for further investigation and an outstanding witness statement.
The accused was then escorted by police out of the back entrance.
“This was a hate crime. He lives in the community where the victim resided.”
Outside the main entrance to the court, about 20 activists and Lwandle residents chanted and held up posters with photographs of Xakeka.
Fungiwa Maliwa, a close friend of the murder victim, described her as being “friendly” and someone who “always joked and laughed”. Maliwa said it was still difficult for her friends to come to terms with Xakeka’s death.
Triangle Project’s Sharon Ludwig said they were “horrified” when they discovered that the accused had been released. “Because this case happened during the festive season, our main focus at the time was to provide family support. We tried to find out about bail, but couldn’t get any information,” she said.
“This just sends a message to the Lwandle community that these crimes are not taken seriously and that our lives don’t matter,” she said.
Ludwig said the group believed it was “inappropriate to have granted bail at all”.
“This was a hate crime. He lives in the community where the victim resided and where her friends who were there that night still live. So they can easily become a target for intimidation. We have around 800 signatures and many of them are from knocking door-to-door in the area,” she said.
Ward councillor Bulelwa Madikane, who has been assisting Xakeka’s friends and family, said, “We are saddened by this … We feel the justice system has failed our community,” she said.
“You can’t kill someone and then get released on a warning by the court. Even people who steal cars are kept inside [jail] longer than him. They don’t think about what happened to Noxolo … We should treat LGBTI people the same as anyone else,” she said.
This article was first published on GroundUP.