Activists, parents and students have come out to demand justice in the court hearing of the seven “Grindr gang” accused (Photo: Access Chapter 2)
Over the past few weeks, Wits University students have joined other LGBTIQA+ activists in attending the court hearings of seven men accused of kidnapping and nearly killing a Johannesburg student lured through Grindr.
The accused — 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 on Monday, facing charges of kidnapping, attempted murder, and extortion.
This was the latest of several appearances since their arrest in September last year, with the case being repeatedly postponed for further investigation.
Solidarity and a Demand for Justice
Members of LGBTIQA+ student campus group Activate Wits joined representatives from Access Chapter 2, Iranti, OUT LGBT Well-being, and Parents, Families and Friends of South African Queers in court in solidarity with the victim, known only by the pseudonym Seymour.
“We believe that justice should be served and are willing to fight for it,” Rethabile Lebakeng, Activate Wits Spokesperson and Treasurer told MambaOnline. “We believe that it is important to remain outraged at crimes targeted at queer people so that they are never normalised.”
Although the display of solidarity among queer individuals and allies in court, some adorned in vibrant rainbow colours, was heartwarming and uplifting, the demeanour of the accused was openly hostile.
“They made hand gestures towards those in attendance showing their disregard for the seriousness of this case. There was no shame or remorse for their crimes,” revealed Lebakeng.
The suspects are accused of luring the 18-year-old student into a fake date through Grindr. 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.
A Series of Attacks Targeting Queer Individuals
Lebakeng said the brutal attack on Seymour had for the most part brought the university’s queer community together. Unfortunately, it also led some to become even more afraid to express their identity for fear of persecution. She added, however, that “we stand behind these students and understand their plight.”
The organisation intends to continue to monitor the case and will provide any support to the victim and their family that may be needed. It will also ramp up efforts to better inform queer students about online safety.
The attack is just one of many over several years in which queer individuals across the country have been targeted through dating apps, held random, tortured and beaten by criminals. One victim, 43-year-old Kuben Kevin Archary, was strangled to death in a Durban guest house in July 2023.
The case against the seven men in Johannesburg was postponed to March 4 for further investigation.