Zanele Muholi hiding in fear for their life

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Zanele Muholi (Photo: David Penney)

Zanele Muholi, South Africa’s world-renowned queer visual artist and activist, says they’ve been scammed by their ex-girlfriend and been put on a hit list.

On Sunday, City Press reported sensational allegations that Muholi had allegedly been scammed out of up to R13 million by Bajabulile Dhlamini, a woman they were in a relationship with.

The two are said to have met in 2018 through a pastor friend, with Dhlamini allegedly purporting to be a Swazi princess. Their romance grew and extended into a business relationship through an organisation called the BaMu Arts Foundation.

It’s claimed that Muholi later discovered that they were not even listed as a director of the organisation. It’s also alleged that Dhlamini was selling their art and asking clients to pay directly into her account.

It’s further alleged that Dhlamini signed documents and invoiced clients on Muholi’s behalf without the photographer’s knowledge.

In a legal letter posted on Instagram last week, Muholi’s lawyers distanced the artist from the foundation and all its subsidiaries, stating that these are “not owned by them and do not represent them in any way that and that Muholi has no role in the activities of these entities.”

Muholi has opened a case of fraud again Dhlamini, who, it’s been alleged, hired a hitman to kill them and a small group of close associates.

One of these friends, a well known LGBTQ+ celebrity, confirmed to Mamba on Monday that they and the traumatised Muholi are still in hiding together at a secret location. “That woman wants us dead,” she said.

The terrified associate added: “The matter is with the lawyers. We are getting more new information about the sales that Bajabulile made…”

She said that Muholi “is trying to keep calm but it’s not easy with so much information coming in.”

Dhlamini responded to the claims against her to City Press: “It’s difficult to admit to knowledge of any fraud on my part because Muholi never said anything to me about me stealing from her. Instead, I’m hearing from people I don’t know and have never heard from before.”

She denied hiring a hitman and further claimed that Muholi was abusive towards her: “My only [action] was to speak out against Muholi and say that she was abusive. Now, on the defensive, she’s bringing these allegations against me.”

In a post on Instagram, Muholi shared a photo of themselves at a police station in Cape Town with the caption: “#case opened #iam_not_afraid #appreciating #support #friendships #relationships #honesty #praying for my life and all those around me.”

Muholi’s lawyers have urged anyone who bought their work “through the BaMu Arts Foundation, Muholi Arts Projects, Betive Holdings, Studio BH Gallery or Bajabulile Dhlamini Sidzumo to make contact with our offices…”

In 2017, Muholi was knighted by France for their ground-breaking art, especially for documenting black African queer identities. Muholi’s work has been shown around the world and they have been named one of the world’s most powerful African artists in the contemporary art world. Muholi also co-founded the Forum for Empowerment of Women (FEW) in 2002 and in 2009 founded Inkanyiso, a forum for queer and visual (activist) media.

 

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A post shared by Zanele Muholi (@muholizanele)

 

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A post shared by Zanele Muholi (@muholizanele)

 

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A post shared by Zanele Muholi (@muholizanele)

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