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South Africa: Justice for Noxolo

    Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 00:00

    In the early hours of 24 April 2011, Easter Sunday, a 24 year old lesbian woman, Noxolo Nogwaza, was murdered on her way home from a night out with friends. Her attacker(s) raped, repeatedly beat and stabbed her before dumping her body in a drainage ditch. According to organisations spoken to by Amnesty International, Noxolo was targeted because of her sexual orientation. A year after her death, no progress has been made in the investigation into her murder and her killer(s) remain at large.

    Noxolo lived and died in KwaThema, a township east of Johannesburg in Gauteng Province. As an activist for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, she was aware of the risks of living openly as a lesbian woman. Homophobia and hate crimes against LGBTI individuals are common in South Africa, particularly against those living in townships and rural areas. Taunts, insults and threats are a constant reality and are so common that many LGBTI people do not even recognise these as a form of violence against them. Sexual assault and other physical attacks against LGBTI people are also all too common. In the last five years, there have been at least 10 cases of rape followed by murder of lesbian women reported in townships in different parts of the country. Three of these cases – Eudy Simelane, Girly ‘S’Gelane’ Nkosi and Noxolo - have been in KwaThema. These incidents of sexual assault and murder of lesbian women have also occurred in the wider context of persistent, high levels of violence against women in general.

    After Noxolo was murdered, her case was assigned to Tsakane police station for investigation. Since the time of her murder in April 2011 it appears that critical investigation steps were not been taken by the police, missing the opportunity to gather vital evidence. No progress has been made in investigating the case and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

    Take Action

    Write a letter to the Station Commander of the local Tsakane police station responsible for investigating Noxolo’s case and send a copy to his immediate superior, the Cluster Commander of Brakpan Cluster.

    In your letter you should say:

    • You are writing with reference to case number 635/04/2011 – the murder of Noxolo Nogwaza in KwaThema on 24 April 2011, a human rights defender who campaigned for the rights to equality and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.
    • Express your concern that, a year after her death, no progress has been made in investigating, arresting and bringing to justice the perpetrators of Noxolo Nogwaza’s murder. This failure increases the impact, for those who knew her, of the hate-motivated acts of violence and which led to her death.
    • Urge the Tsakane police to give full attention to thoroughly investigating the death of Noxolo Nogwaza and provide regular feedback to her family and colleagues on their progress.  

    Write To

    Station Commander, Tsakane Police Station 
    Colonel Petros Shilane
    P O Box 70364, Tsakane, 1548, South Africa
    Fax: + 27 11 363 5434
    Dear Colonel

    Copies To

    Brakpan Cluster Commander, South African Police Service
    Brigadier Kobus van der Westhuizen
    P O Box 70364, Tsakane, 1548, South Africa
    Fax: + 27 11 363 5434
    Dear Brigadier

    More Background

    There is a gap between South Africa's progressive laws on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights, and practical access to justice for LGBTI individuals who are victims of hate crimes. The apparent indifference that the police have shown towards investigating her murder is not unusual. Pervasive homophobic attitudes in the wider society are, not surprisingly, reflected in the police themselves and affect their responses to LGBTI people who report violence against them. LGBTI people often describe ‘secondary victimisation’ by police officers or medical personnel when they try to seek help following attacks against them. According to LGBT rights organisations, police are reported to be contemptuous and mocking or at the very least uninterested in taking the complaints seriously. Heterosexual women reporting sexual assault often also experience this negative pattern of response: for lesbian, bisexual and transgender women, this intersects with and is compounded by the discrimination they experience because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This intersectional discrimination leads to a lack of trust in the police’s ability or willingness to protect victims or investigate crimes, and consequently a reluctance to report incidents of violence. The consequence of these multiple failures by police is a climate of impunity that is created for perpetrators of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes. This in turn leads to a greater sense of insecurity and fear amongst LGBTI people.