South Africa’s Justice Fails

As it Postpones Lesbian Hate Murder Trial for 31st Time

Magistrates Court, King Williams Town

By Melanie Nathan, November 08, 2010

In the face of our recent reporting on the Millicent Gaika Rape Trial in Wynberg Magistrates Court, South Africa, we find that indeed the South African Justice System, despite its constitutional regard for LGBT equality, has suffered yet another egregious setback. The murder trial of Khayelitsha’s Zoliswa Nkonyana has been waiting to happen for four-years. Nine men are charged with the murder and the case has been continued because of legal representation problems and other reasons.

Luvuyo Mjekula reports that ward councilor A Khayelitsha  has vowed to use his office to confront Justice Minister Jeff Radebe about delays plaguing this lesbian-hate murder trial which suffered its 30th postponement on Thursday.

The case had been postponed to November 3 and now finally a date for trial has been set for next year.

Joining forces with about 100 gender activists protesting outside the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court last month, ward 97 councillor Ryder Mkutswana called for speedy justice and support from other ward councillors.

Nkonyana, 19, was murdered on February 4, 2006, allegedly because she was openly lesbian. She was attacked after she left a shebeen (a township bar) where female patrons allegedly tried to force her to use a male toilet. When she refused and left to use a toilet elsewhere, a group of men followed and stabbed her to death.

Nine Khayelitsha men aged between 19 and 24 were charged with her murder. They have pleaded not guilty to murder and two counts of attempted murder for attacks on Nkonyana’s friend who was with her, as well as a passer-by.

Gay rights activists had protested outside the Khayelitsha court in the four years the case had been delayed.

At the postponements (continuances) despite activists attendance, they were outnumbered in court by relatives, friends and girlfriends of the nine men. “We did not have an impact in court. We have agreed to mobilise more people for the next court appearance,” said TAC leader Lumkile Fizile.

The suspects appeared in court on Wednesday morning again, where the case was postponed, now for the 31st time.

All nine men are expected back in the same court on 7 March 2011. Three of them who were granted bail at the earlier stages of the case three years ago will go back to their families while the other seven will remain behind bars.

The court announced that all the issues between the defence and the legal aid board have been finalised. At least six advocates will be representing the men.

Protesters continue to slam the postponements, claiming that justice delayed is justice denied. Four of the accused had escaped and were re-arrested – speaks volumes to the risk of these delays.

by Melanie Nathan
[email protected]

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