Sheila Lebelo is the 16th LGBTIQ+ South African murdered in the last five months
A 33-year-old lesbian-identifying woman has been murdered and possibly raped in Atteridgeville, outside of Pretoria.
According to Steve Letsike, Director of Access Chapter 2, the body of Sheila Lebelo was discovered on Monday 28 June in a house in Atteridgeville. She was naked with her clothes scattered nearby. There was no obvious cause of death.
Lebelo was last seen on the Friday by her family when she went out for the evening. It’s understood that there were witnesses to her murder and that a neighbour alerted the family to her body’s location.
While there have been no arrests and details remain unclear, two suspects are said to be under investigation. A post-mortem is being conducted to confirm the cause of death.
“It’s believed that this is a hate crime because of the people alleged to be involved in the murder,” Letsike told MambaOnline.
The LGBTIQ+ activist has been personally assisting and supporting the devastated family and liaising with the authorities to ensure justice for Lebelo.
“The family have nothing,” said Letsike. “Yesterday when we were there, they had to plead for our assistance. We are helping them with groceries and the Department of Social Development is assisting with the burial. We are tracking this and working with the SAPS.”
Lebelo is the 16th confirmed LGBTIQ+ individual killed in South Africa since 12 February. Letsike called the recent wave of murders a “crisis” that is taking its toll not only on the victims but also on activists and the community.
Letsike said that all government stakeholders need to work together to address the horrific situation; not only the criminal justice system but also the departments of Social Development and Education.
“We need to see investment into prevention and holding people accountable,” said Letsike. “But we also want to see behaviour change in society, predominantly among men, because these acts are perpetrated mainly by men. It’s unacceptable behaviour in society.”
The Department of Justice recently came under fire for failing to offer new strategies to prevent, combat and prosecute hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ South Africans.
Here are the other known victims of the LGBTIQ+ murders that have shaken South Africa since 12 February 2021:
- Bonang Gaelae, 29, whose throat was slashed in Sebokeng on 12 February.
- Nonhlanhla Kunene, 37, whose body was found half naked in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg on 5 March.
- Sphamandla Khoza, 34, who was beaten, stabbed and had his throat slit on 29 March in Kwamashu, Durban.
- Nathaniel ‘Spokgoane’ Mbele, who was stabbed in the chest in Tshirela, Vanderbijlpark on 2 April.
- Khulekani Gomazi, 27, who was beaten to death on 3 April in Mpophomeni in KwaZulu-Natal after being accused of sexual assault.
- Andile ‘Lulu’ Nthuthela, 41, whose mutilated and burned body was found on 10 April in KwaNobuhle, Kariega.
- Lonwabo Jack, a young LGBTIQ+ individual who had just celebrated his 22nd birthday on 17 April. His lifeless body was found on a pavement the next day in Nyanga, Cape Town.
- Lucky Kleinboy Motshabi, 30, whose body was found in a field in the town of Dennilton, Limpopo on 24 April. He was naked with stab wounds on his body.
- Phelokazi Mqathana, 24, who was stabbed to death on the weekend of 1 May in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. It was reported that a man stabbed her after she rejected his advances.
- Lindokuhle Mapu, 23, who was stabbed to death in Mfuleni, outside of Cape Town, on 9 May.
- Aubrey Boshoga, 48, whose body was dumped outside his house in Johannesburg on 29 May.
- Masixole Level, 28, whose body was found on a street in Kwazakhele, in the Eastern Cape, on 6 June.
- Anele Bhengu, 28, whose stabbed and mutilated body was discovered in KwaMakhutha, KZN, on 13 June.
- Lulama Mvandaba, who died days after being beaten outside a shebeen in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape.
- Motse Moeketsi, 36, whose body was discovered in Freedom Park in Gauteng after he was reported missing a few days earlier.
In addition, gay man Sam Mbatha is still missing after a male body was discovered in his burnt-out car in Klipgat in the North West province on 17 June. The remains have yet to be identified through DNA testing.
Supporters are urged to sign the online petition demanding action against LGBTIQ+ hate and violence in South Africa.