MambaOnline has learned that Mphela’s body was discovered with numerous stab wounds this week in her rented house in the Makopane area. It’s understood that the home was also set on fire.
No arrests have been made. While additional details are unclear, news of Mphela’s death has been met with shock.
The 27-year-old made LGBTIQ+ history when she took her former high school principal and the Limpopo Department of Education to the Equality Court. She claimed she suffered ongoing discrimination from 2013 to 2014 because of her gender identity.
The principal of Raselete Secondary School was accused of encouraging learners to physically harass and humiliate Mphela, including asking them to “check” her genitals in the bathrooms. The abuse was so severe that it led to her failing matric at the end of 2014.
Represented by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), she won the case in 2017 and was awarded R60,000 for pain and suffering and R40,000 for education and counselling costs. The principal was also ordered to attend sensitisation training.
“When people read about my story they will understand how much pain I went through,” Mphela told Iranti.org in a video (see below). “They will learn that if they have children like me, they mustn’t hide but be visible. We have the right to live our lives how we see fit.”
SAHRC Provincial Manager Victor Mavhidula told MambaOnline that he and his office were deeply saddened by the news of Mphela’s murder.
He praised her for having stood her ground and “defending the rights of LGBTIQ people,” especially those of LGBTIQ learners. He described Mphela as “a strong soul and strong personality; somebody who would not be pushed around.”
The group Capricorn Ignited LGBTI wrote on Facebook that Mphela’s death was “a painful loss to the Limpopo LGBTIQ+ community and society as a whole.”
Lorraine Klaas, a close school friend, has been devastated by Mphela’s death. “She was selfless. She would go all out to make others happy. She loved gospel and when she set a goal for herself, she always saw it through. She never backed out of a challenge,” Klaas said.
She added: “I can’t even imagine being murdered like that. She didn’t go down without a fight – that I know for a fact. She saved me from trouble over the past years but she couldn’t save herself.”
Nare Mphela will be laid to rest on Saturday 11 January at Prospect Village in Ga-Matlala.
LGBTIQ+ learners often face discrimination and bullying in schools in South Africa. According to a 2016 Love Not Hate report by OUT LGBT Well-being, 56% of LGBT South Africans surveyed said they’d experienced discrimination based on their sexuality or gender identity while attending school.