Mally Simelane (Pic: David Penney)
The mother of Eudy Simelane, Mally, who became a vocal defender of the LGBTI community after her daughter’s horror 2008 hate murder has died.
According to activist Phumi Mtetwa, Mally Simelane – who was in her 70s – had been suffering from poor health for some time.
Mtetwa described her as “arguably the most visible parent of a lesbian or homosexual in South Africa advocating for the acceptance and respect of LGBTI people across Africa and the world over.”
The body of 31-year-old Eudy Simelane, a football player on South Africa’s Banyana Banyana national women’s team, was found in a field in KwaThema township outside Johannesburg in April 2008. She had been gang-raped and died from multiple stab wounds.
Her shocking murder made international headlines. It was among one of a series of incidents that galvanised activists to rally against a wave of attacks on lesbian women and to campaign for hate crime legislation (which has still not been enacted).
“m’Mally had experienced first hand the pain of seeing her daughter stabbed more than 25 times with a knife,” wrote Mtetwa in a statement. “She had gone to where Eudy’s body lay, in a ditch, not very far from their home. She sat daily through the court hearings and a trial that spanned a tiring and emotional 16 months. The pain of a mother in such a situation is unimaginable!”
While 24-year-old Themba Mvubu was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, two other men accused of the crime were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Mally Simelane went on to become a figure for LGBTI acceptance and religious tolerance and attended the funerals of other members of the community. In 2016, she and her husband Kgotso received the Feather of the Year Award on behalf of their late daughter.
“I will miss Mam’Mally. I will miss her humour and teasing,” said Mtetwa. “I will miss her exemplary role in society and the churches. I will miss her voice and never compromising drive to speak out and openly about how she lost her child and the pain carried as a family.”
She added: “Lala ngokuthula qawekazi! Rest in Power Mama! Thank you for your love for us and for always standing tall next to our struggles!”
Mally Simelane is survived by her husband and son, Bafana Simelane. She will be laid to rest on Saturday 20 April. The funeral service will start at 7 am at the Central Methodist Church (Kgaswane Street) in Kwa-Thema and the cortège will leave for the cemetery at 9 am.