Gender activists are urging the government to act decisively and implement initiatives to eradicate homophobic attacks in the country.
This follows the arrest of a 39-year-old man on Monday 3 May for the murder of a 24-year-old woman, Phelokazi Mqathanya, the day before. He is expected to appear in Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court today (6 May) on a charge of murder.
The killing comes hot on the heals of Lonwabo Jack’s murder in Nyanga (“Jack killed like a dog”, City Vision 22 April).
Mqathanya was stabbed in the early hours of Sunday, in Site C, Khayelitsha. Her killing has been described as a homophobic attack, which has left her family distraught. Elder brother Mzwabesuthu Ndlwana said he was awoken by a friend around 03:00 Sunday morning. “At first I took it for granted, but my friend insisted I come and see. I was very tired but I dragged myself out of bed. I was shocked to see her lying there in someone’s yard. When I tried to find out what had happened I couldn’t learn anything tangible.”
Ndlwana described the deceased as a good person. “Our family will meet this coming Sunday to discuss her burial,” he said, tears rolling down his cheeks. “We are from Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape, and none of us is working, so we’ll have to wait for the family and see what comes out of the meeting.”
Funeka Soldaat of LGBTQ + organisation Free Gender said the country experienced a surge in homophobic attacks. “In April there a significant number of lesbians were killed, and at the start of May Phelokazi,” she said. “This will lead to people going into hiding again, and parents being concerned about the safety of their children. Our government needs to conduct massive education on homosexuality and tolerance. If we have days dedicated to fighting xenophobia, then what stops the government from combating homophobia?” Citing lesbian baiting as “cruel”, Soldaat urged communities not to be silent, and report such incidents.
Mqathanya’s friend Happiness Gutswa (29), who had been in KwaZulu-Natal when news reached her of her friend’s death, said: “I could not believe what I was being told. I still don’t believe or accept what has happened. I knew her for 11 years, she was like a younger sister.” She described her friend as “a lovely person” who cared a lot about others. “She loved people and was a happy soul. She had such a lot of dreams, one of them to move overseas. Phelokazi had a lot more in life to explore, which was cut short.”
Gutswa demanded the culprits be brought to book and “rot in jail. “Given the pain I currently feel, I want this person to spend a long time in jail,” she said. “He must pay for his sin, and tell us why he did this.”
Const Lowellan West, Khayelitsha police spokesperson, said police were called to a crime scene in Mzoxolo Street. “On their arrival they were directed to the lifeless body of a female, identified as Phelokazi Mqathanya, who had succumbed to what appeared to be stab wounds to the chest area,” he said.
West said police detectives followed up on leads, leading to the suspect’s arrest, and anyone with more info must contact them.