University of Cape Town law professor Pierre de Vos on his blog, Constitutionally Speaking:

Zoliswa Nkonyana was raped and murdered by a group of young men on 4 February 2006 in Khayelitsha [on the outskirts of Cape Town] because she was a lesbian. Although another young woman witnessed the attack, it is alleged that the witness had only been contacted by the Police after a journalist alerted police to her existence more than two weeks after the murder. (The investigating officer denied this. “I was getting round to taking a statement from her,” said Constable Geldenhuys.)

Now, Constable Geldenhuys might be correct, but in my own experience I would be surprised if the police in Kayelitsha had prioritised the murder of a lesbian. A few years ago when a lesbian was brutally attacked in Kayelitsha by a group of young men who lived down the road from her, nothing I did could convince the police to go and arrest the suspects. I even wrote letters to the MEC for Safety and Security and phoned the station commander and they all seemed singularly uninterested in the case. After all, this was only a few young boys “teaching a lesbian a good lesson.”

The suspects were known to the police. There were at least five witnesses. Yet, up to this very day no one has been arrested for that crime. As the police officer sent to investigate the incident told the victim: “But you are a lesbian, so why are you crying with the police.”

Of course, if the woman who was raped and murdered was not a black lesbian from Khayelitsha, but a young heterosexual blond foreigner, it is inconceivable that the police would not have bothered to have interviewed the witness more than two weeks after the crime occurred. In South Africa some lives are cheaper and more expendable than others, and if you are a black lesbian you better know that your life is not worth much – even in the new South Africa.

[The picture is from artist Zanele Muholi‘s exhibition “Being“]

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