Activists happy with lesbian's killers' sentencing
Lauren Hess, News24
Cape Town - Almost six years after being brutally stoned, beaten and kicked to death, 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana’s killers have been sentenced to jail for her murder.
On Wednesday, the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court sentenced Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Londzi and Mbulelo Damba to 18 years in jail, four of them suspended for five years.
In delivering a judgment to a packed courtroom, filled mostly with activists and family members of Nkonyana, Magistrate Raadiyah Wathen said she took into account the fact that the accused were aged just 16 and 17 when they committed the murder but also that none of them had shown remorse to the victim’s family.
“Sentencing involving youths is the most difficult [to do]. The court must take into account several factors [including] the seriousness and nature of the offence and personal circumstances.
“This court takes the sentencing of human life very seriously.”
Activists sang and danced outside the court and cheered when the sentence was announced via loudspeaker.
Activists were particularly satisfied that Wathen took into account the accused’s reasoning for the murder, chiefly that they were intolerant of Nkonyana’s choice to live openly as a lesbian.
Wathen noted that while the accused had a right to not agree with Nkonyana’s lifestyle, it was wrong to resort to violence in showing their disagreement of it.
“Life is about choice. Zoliswa Nkonyana didn’t have the freedom to live out her choice. Violence will not go unpunished.”
The Triangle Project’s Jayne Arnott told News24 that the sentencing was groundbreaking for South Africa’s judiciary.
Arnott said there were four more LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) hate crime cases still to be heard in Western Cape courts.
Funeka Soldaat, founder of Free Gender said she was “very happy with the sentence” as she thought the four accused would get less than 10 years’ imprisonment.
“Khayelitsha must now stand behind lesbians.”
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