The nine men accused of murdering Zoliswa Nkonyana for being open about her lesbian status, were greeted by about 100 residents of Khayelitsha E-Section as they accompanied court officials on an in loco inspection of the crime scene on Friday. While their friends and family were happy to see them and danced and sang, other residents shouted slogans such as ‘criminals should rot in jail’ as a state witness showed the court how and where the murder took place.
This came after state prosecutor Alfred Isaacs filed an application requesting the court familiarise itself with the crime scene.
But before the in loco inspection, Isaacs cross-examined a state witness, who is currently staying in a place of safety and could not be named.
The witness said Nkonyana was beaten, stoned and clubbed to death by a mob of young men because “lesbians in the townships are not wanted”.
The state witness told the court she was drinking in a shebeen with Nkonyana on the night of February 4, 2006, when they were taunted by women who said both she and Nkonyana should use the men’s toilets as they were “tomboys”.
She said they left the shebeen when it started emptying. On the way to another shebeen the witness said Nkonyana told her there were people following them.
The two women were soon surrounded by a group of men who started asking why the pair were acting like men and saying they deserved to be raped.
She said the men then started beating Nkonyana and the witness fled and hid. She said a man tried to come to Nkonyana’s rescue but he was also beaten.
The man is also lined up as a state witness.
The nine accused, who have all pleaded not guilty, are facing one charge of murder and attempted murder.
They all remain is custody except for Luyanda Londzi, 20, who is out on R1000 bail.
Accused Sicelo Mabe’s bail was permanently forfeited when he failed to appear in court on August 27 this year.
The remaining accused are: Mbulelo Damba, 20, Mfundo Kulani, 18, Themba Dlephu, 20, Zolile Kobese, 20, Anele Gwele, 23, Sabelo Yekiso, 20, and Lubabalo Ntlabathi, 21.
About 200 gay and lesbian and gender rights activists, aligned to the 07-07-07 campaign launched in 2007 by a coalition of organisations in response to the murder of lesbian women in South Africa, demonstrated outside the court.
* Reporting by Sandiso Phaliso and Siyabonga Kalipa. Published in the Weekend Argus, 07 December 2008.