The New Year began on a tragic note following a series of possible hate crime murders of LGBTI South Africans.
As seen in previous years, the holiday season was again a period in which sexual and gender minorities appeared to be at a heightened risk of abuse and violence.
At least three cases were reported in recent weeks in which four individuals lost their lives in horrific circumstances:
Anisha (30) and Joey van Niekerk (32): On 10 December, this married lesbian couple from the town of Mooinooi in the North West province went missing. Days later, their burned-out car was discovered, followed by the burnt remains of two people. It is believed that a dispute with a tenant about buying the women’s property may have played a part in the killings. Eight people have now been arrested in connection with the murders which, according to reports, involved torture, rape, shooting and setting the bodies on fire. The results of forensic DNA tests to confirm the identity of the bodies are still outstanding.
Noxolo Xakeka (32): Noxolo, known by many as Noxie, was stabbed to death during an altercation, allegedly related to her sexuality, at a party in Strand (Cape Town) on the 1st of January. At the party, the openly lesbian woman and mother allegedly became the focus of anti-LGBT abuse from one of the male guests. He is alleged to have told her to “stop this [lesbian] business” and that she needed “to take a penis”. An argument ensued and the man is alleged to have taken out a knife and stabbed Noxie three times. A suspect has been arrested in connection with the murder.
Kagiso Ishmael Maema (24): The body of this transgender woman from Seraleng in Rustenburg, was discovered on January 6. She was last seen the night before in the company of an unknown man at a local tavern. Her dumped half-naked body was found in a stream the next day by a herdsman. She was partially covered with plastic and had wounds on her head and arm. It is also suspected that she was strangled. A murder case has been opened with the Boitekong Police Station. There have as yet been no arrests.
While it is not yet clear to what extent hate and prejudice were involved in the motives in all of these attacks, LGBTI people are undoubtedly a particularly vulnerable community.
Love Not Hate sends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims. We call on the authorities to conduct speedy, thorough and professional investigations into the murders.