Pietermaritzburg – It has been eight long years of anguish for Mally Simelane, the mother of murdered Banyana Banyana footballer, Eudy Simelane.
But as the eighth anniversary of Simelene's death draws near, she said she had finally learned to forgive her daughter's attackers.
Eudy Simelane was a soccer player for the South African national women’s team, Banyana Banyana, who was found dead in April 2008 in an open field in KwaThema, Springs, in Gauteng. She had been abducted, gang raped, beaten and stabbed several times because of her sexual orientation.
The killing sent shockwaves through the country at the time.
In February 2009 in Delmas, Mpumalanga, the trial of Simelane's alleged attackers got under way. One of the four pleaded guilty to rape and murder and was sentenced to 32 years imprisonment.
In September 2009, another was convicted of murder, rape and robbery, and sentenced to life plus 35 years. The remaining two were acquitted.
Long journey to healing
In an emotional interview with News24, Simelane, flanked by her son and Eudy Simelane's brother, Bafana, said the journey to healing had been a long one. She said she thought she would never be able to get over her daughter's death.
Simelane said she had only started to heal a few weeks ago when she attended an Easter sermon.
“When the pastor read the passage of how Jesus pleaded for forgiveness of his persecutors, I realised that I needed to forgive my daughter’s killers in order to heal this deep wound that had been eating me inside.”
Last week, the family attended the first memorial lecture in Eudy Simelane's honour at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The two-day dialogue explored the challenges facing the gay and lesbian community, both in South Africa and on the African continent.
The gathering was organised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, KwaZulu-Natal Church Council, and the Gay and Lesbian Network and was held under the theme of 'Homophobia and the Church in Africa - a dialogue'.
Mally Simelane said attending the event had been part of her healing process. At the event a documentary on her daughter's life was played before the memorial lecture was delivered by Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron.
"I went to bed on Thursday and realised that my daughter lives within many of us and is resting peacefully. This gave me peace in my heart," she says.
Avenge her death
Her son, Bafana Simelane, also spoke to News24 of the difficulty in dealing with his sister's death.
He said the journey to healing had been long as he had often thought about avenging her death but that he had since found peace.
“It has not been an easy period for the family, especially my mother and myself,” said Simelane..
His father, Khotso Simelane, said he had realised early on after his daughter’s killing that he needed to find a way to forgive.
“My name means 'peace', so I almost felt duty-bound to forgive them, because at the time of her killing the pain was so intense that it became clear that the burden would be too heavy to bear,” he said.
The family members said they had found comfort in the knowledge from the delegates attending the dialogue that their daughter's story had become a catalyst for acceptance and better treatment of the gay and lesbian community, both in and outside the church.