LGBTIQ+ activists and parents gathered at the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court to show solidarity with the Grindr Gang victim
LGBTIQ+ activists say they’ve been confronted in court by other alleged members of the Grindr Gang who were supporting the seven men accused of kidnapping and brutally beating a Johannesburg student.
On Wednesday, the suspects — Sanele Ndlovu (26), Vikani Khanyeza (28), Sohollo Khumalo (26), Sphamandla Mavundla (33), Lungisani Mshabalala (33), Thulani Mazibuko (23), and Khayelihle Zulu (24) — appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court, facing charges of kidnapping, attempted murder, and extortion.
Activists, parents and representatives from several LGBTIQ+ groups attended the hearing to show solidarity with the victim. They occupied almost half the public gallery, where they claim they faced intimidation from supporters of the accused. Some of these supporters are allegedly also part of the syndicate targeting LGBTIQ+ individuals on dating apps.
Thabsie Mabezane, a Project Assistant Officer at Parents Families and Friends of the South African Queers (PFSAQ), who was present in court, expressed concern. “As a victim myself, I recognised the faces of some of the supporters. They were making threatening remarks and taking pictures of us,” they told MambaOnline.
Grindr Gang criminals use similar modus operandi
The seven suspects are accused of luring an 18-year-old student into a fake date through Grindr in September. They held him against his will, subjected him to severe physical beatings, and demanded a ransom of R30,000 from his family. They were arrested after one of the alleged perpetrators was caught by police attempting to withdraw ransom funds from an ATM.
The case echoes a similar modus operandi to a more recent incident this past week in which a 22-year-old Johannesburg man endured a harrowing five-day ordeal. He was eventually released, and one person has been arrested.
Activists Unite Against Grindr Gang Attacks
On the day before the hearing, LGBTIQ+ organisations, including Iranti, Gala Queer Archive, and Access Chapter Two, attended a meeting called by PFSAQ founder Virginia Magwaza in Johannesburg. The meeting aimed to address the ongoing Grindr Gang attacks against the queer community.
“We discussed how we can make Grindr a safer place for queer people to access. We also discovered that it’s not only Grindr but also on other dating sites like Tinder,” said Mabezane.
Activists expressed concerns about potential collaboration between some police members and the perpetrators. They strategised on providing more support to victims and their parents and discussed ways to ensure that law enforcement takes the incidents seriously.
Calls for a Temporary Boycott of Dating Apps
Mabezane and others have endorsed the growing calls for the LGBTIQ+ community to stop using apps like Grindr. “We, as queer activists, discussed that queer people need to stay out of these dating sites as a temporary measure until more is done to make them safer.”
The case has been postponed until the 7th of December to allow for further investigations, particularly in processing and finalising video evidence.
Despite the alleged intimidation in court, Mabezane asserted that the activists remain committed to finding justice for the victims of the Grindr Gang. “We will continue with our activities and will not give in to fear,” they said.