South Africa LGBTIQ+ Rights Watch: October 2023

OUT LGBT Well-being and MambaOnline publish a monthly overview of reported LGBTIQ+ rights violations in South Africa, including hate speech. We also look at the status of cases making their way through the criminal justice system. Here is our summary for October 2023.

Religious queerphobes take down Cathedral Pride flag

In Cape Town, a group of self-proclaimed Christians took down a Pride flag displayed as a sign of LGBTIQ+ allyship outside St George’s Cathedral. They justifed their actions by stating that the church is “infested” by LGBTIQ+ people. The act of vandalism was captured on video and showed at least three young men, possibly accompanied by a young woman, removing the rainbow flag from the cathedral’s flagpole in broad daylight. One of the vandals defended their actions, claiming that affirming the queer community in churches, especially prominent ones like St George’s Cathedral, is unacceptable. In response, the cathedral condemned the act, referring to the group as “delinquents”. The incident highlights ongoing aggressions and public bigotry faced by the LGBTIQ+ community.

South African transgender pilot fights to return to the skies

Experienced South African transgender pilot Kailer Smit, whose flying career has been halted due to his gender identity, is challenging the South African Civil Aviation Authority’s (SACAA) refusal to clear him for flight. Smit, a pilot since 2015, has been undergoing testosterone hormone replacement therapy since 2017 with the SACAA’s knowledge. However, the authority in January suddenly grounded Smit citing his history of Gender Affirmation Treatment. The SACAA instructed psychological tests, and although the results indicated fitness to fly, the authority rejected the recommendations. Smit is still appealing the decision and is facing financial struggles due to his suspension.

SAHRC calls for an end to gender-binary school uniform policies

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) released a groundbreaking report declaring that school uniform policies rooted in traditional gender norms are discriminatory and have no place in South Africa. Following an inquiry into learners’ appearances and school uniforms, the SAHRC found that current uniform policies in the country, with colonial origins, often disregard cultural symbols and practices. The commission argued that enforcing gendered school uniforms constitutes unfair discrimination, violating the Equality Act. Recommendations include abolishing hair policies differentiating between genders, providing gender-neutral uniform options, and allowing learners to express their culture and beliefs. The National and Provincial Departments of Education were given timeframes to address these directives.

Nomvula Chenene murder case finally gets trial date

After months of delays, a trial date has been set in the case against Sizwe Buthelezi, the accused murderer of Nomvula Chenene, a lesbian woman from Gauteng. Chenene went missing in December 2022, and her skeletal remains were later discovered in a shallow grave under the shack where Buthelezi was living. The trial is set to begin on January 16, 2024, marking a significant step towards seeking justice for Chenene and her family. Buthelezi, who abandoned his bail application, will remain in custody as the legal process progresses. Supporters, including LGBTIQ+ activists and friends and family, continue to attend court appearances, emphasising the importance of justice for Chenene.

Homophobic bullying: Gauteng learner takes own life

Sibusiso Mbatha, a 12-year-old learner from Khehlekile Primary School in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, died by suicide, and evidence suggests it was related to homophobic bullying involving a teacher. The teacher allegedly told Mbatha to “leave his gay tendencies outside the school.” Screenshots of WhatsApp messages from the boy revealed that he cited bullying from his teacher as the reason for his decision to end his life. The Gauteng Department of Education initiated an internal investigation into the allegations of bullying at the school. LGBTIQ+ activists emphasised the need for measures to prevent such tragedies by making schools safer and more inclusive for LGBTIQ+ learners.

Cape Town gay hate preacher gets 9 months in prison (suspended)

Oscar Bougardt, the notoriously homophobic Cape Town pastor previously convicted of LGBTIQ+ hate speech, again received a suspended sentence after persistently attacking the LGBTIQ+ community. The court found Bougardt guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to nine months in prison, suspended for five years, as long as he complies with an earlier court order not to publish discriminatory statements concerning sexual orientation. This is not the first time Bougardt has faced legal consequences for hate speech, and despite previous court orders, and an earlier suspended jail sentence, he continued making anti-LGBTIQ+ comments. Activists expressed frustration over the court’s decision, emphasising concerns about the lack of consequences for hate speech.

Grindr Gang accused denied bail in student attack case

The Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court denied bail to the seven men accused of kidnapping and brutally assaulting a Johannesburg student they targeted on the Grindr dating app. Facing charges of kidnapping, attempted murder, and extortion, the accused were denied bail due to concerns about the potential danger they may pose to the LGBTIQ+ community. The court heard that the accused are acquainted with state witnesses and had allegedly made threats against the victim’s family. LGBTIQ+ organisations, including Parents Families and Friends of the South African Queers (PFSAQ), have been monitoring the case and supporting the victim, emphasising the importance of collective mobilisation and solidarity within the community. The accused are alleged to have deceived the 18-year-old student through a fake Grindr date, subjected him to severe beatings, and demanded a ransom from his family. The case is ongoing.

Transgender woman harassed at work

A transgender woman working at a Mpumalanga police station contacted OUT LGBT Well-being to report being harassed by a colleague. She said that the alleged abuser screamed at her and tore down a sign outside her office door. The complainant expressed fear as she alleged to have been previously assaulted by her colleague. Despite reporting these incidents to her seniors, the woman claims that she continues to be harassed. OUT is investigating the matter.

Gay Gauteng man targeted on Badoo dating app

In the wake of ongoing media reports about attacks on queer users of the Grindr app, a gay man in Gauteng reached out to OUT in early October to report an incident that took place last year. He warned that other platforms are being used to target members of the community. In his case, he was lured to meet a man in Tembisa through the Badoo dating app. When he arrived at the house, a group of men emerged and tied him up. They forced him to call a family member to pay a R5,000 ransom when they realised that he had no funds in his bank account. Once the money was paid by the family member, he was released.

  • Access LGBTQI+ health, legal and other support services, and get information about your rights, gender and sexuality by dialing *120*72524# on any cellphone. *60c a minute.
  • If you need free support and/or legal advice on your LGBTIQ+ rights, please email OUT at
  • Have you experienced or witnessed an LGBTIQ+ rights violation such as a hate crime, hate speech or any other kind of LGBTIQ+ discrimination in South Africa? If you’d like to bring it to the attention of the LGBTIQ+ community, email