Search for lesbian Nomvula Chenene ends in tragedy


Family members were asked to identify the remains of Nomvula Chenene who’s been missing since December 2022 (Photo: Facebook)

The remains believed to be of lesbian Nomvula Chenene have been found buried under a shack in Lakeside, near Vereeniging.

The 28-year-old Chenene went missing on 10 December 2022 after she left her home to visit a friend. She was reportedly last seen leaving a pub but never returned home.

Her desperate brother, former soccer star Bennett Chenene, offered a R10,000 reward for information that could help find his sister.

After more than three months without any leads, police were tipped off by a woman, believed to be the girlfriend of a 36-year-old suspect.

On Sunday, police discovered skeletal remains in a shallow grave underneath the suspect’s shack. The man has since been arrested and will be charged with murder.

According to the Sedibeng Ster, Chenene’s family members were called to the scene. They were able to identify her remains by a gold tooth and the clothes she was wearing when she disappeared.

While the motive for the murder is unclear, the attack has left the area’s LGBTIQ+ community in shock and fearing that it may be another queerphobic hate crime.

“I think we have established that the LGBTIQ+ are targets of violent crimes and hate.”

Vaal LGBTI Executive Director Azania Sengwayo told MambaOnline that Chenene was a friend of Motshidisi Pascalini Melamu, a lesbian woman who was murdered, mutilated and set on fire in nearby Evaton North in 2015.

Sengwayo, who knew Chenene personally, remembers her loving football as a youngster, just like her brother.

“Nomvula liked going out as well but would often leave her phone at home, which is what she did on the same day she went missing,” says Sengwayo.

“She didn’t attend a lot of LGBTIQ+ events as she preferred being with her guy friends in her area.”

Sengwayo is appalled that it took the suspect’s girlfriend so long to come forward.

“This hurts and it’s sickening – over 100 days they were sleeping with her remains underneath their house.”

Sengwayo remains pessimistic about the safety of members of the LGBTIQ+ community in the Vaal area, which has seen numerous attacks against mainly lesbian women over the years.

“I think we have established that the LGBTIQ+ are targets of violent crimes and hate,” Sengwayo says. “It’s not safe. The police aren’t really doing much to uphold and protect the law. And our so-called friends are also not doing much to protect us.”

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