Human Rights Watch asks SA govt what it’s doing to stop LGBTIQ murders


Candlelight vigil to remember LGBTIQ murder victims at Constitution Hill in May 2021 (Photo:

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has written to the South African government expressing its concern over the spate of horrific LGBTIQ murders that rocked the country last year.

HRW is an international non-governmental organisation that investigates and reports on human rights abuses in more than 100 countries around the world.

In a letter dated 18 January 2022, and addressed to John Jeffery, the Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, Graeme Reid, Director of the HRW LGBT Rights Program, noted that “at least 20 LGBTI individuals were killed across South Africa between February and October 2021.”

Reid added that, as documented by MambaOnline, “many of the victims were beaten or stabbed to death, and… it appears that they were targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

He further pointed out that a November 2021 report by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) also expressed grave concern about the “particularly high levels of gender-based violence of women and girls facing intersecting forms of discrimination [including] LBTI women.”

In light of these concerns, Reid said that “we respectfully request information regarding the steps that have been taken to investigate and prosecute the killings of LGBTI individuals in 2021.”

Reid also asked Jeffery to share implementation plans regarding the recommendations issued by the CEDAW Committee in its report. These included:

  • Raise awareness of women’s human rights among traditional and community leaders and the general public, with the active participation of LBT women;
  • Ensure systematic training for judges, prosecutors, police officers and other law enforcement officers on the strict application of criminal law provisions on gender-based violence against women and gender-sensitive investigation and interrogation procedures, and create an enabling environment for women and girls to report gender-based violence by addressing the stigmatisation of victims, discriminatory stereotypes and judicial gender bias;
  • Ensure that allegations of gender-based violence against women facing intersecting forms of discrimination are promptly investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and adequately punished, and that survivors have access to victim support services and adequate reparations; and
  • Provide information in South Africa’s next periodic report on the situation of women facing intersecting forms of discrimination, including lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and intersex persons, migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women, women living with HIV/AIDS, women with disabilities and women with albinism, and on measures taken to address such discrimination.

Finally, Reid asked for “an update on the development of the National Intervention Strategy for the LGBTI Sector, to which we contributed through a formal submission and participation in NTT (National Task Team) meetings.”

He explained that “this information, Honourable Deputy Minister, will enable Human Rights Watch to support advocacy interventions undertaken by civil society organisations in South Africa.”

While the South African government, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, has condemned violence and hate against members of the LGBTIQ community, it has failed to take any new concrete steps to address the crisis.

Furthermore, the Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill – which was first published in 2016 – continues to languish in the legislature.

Below are the 24 known victims of LGBTIQ murders that took place in South Africa between 12 February and 30 December 2021:

  • Bonang Gaelae, 29, whose throat was slashed in Sebokeng on 12 February.
  • Nonhlanhla Kunene, 37, whose body was found half naked in Edendale, Pietermaritzburg on 5 March.
  • Sphamandla Khoza, 34, who was beaten, stabbed and had his throat slit on 29 March in Kwamashu, Durban.
  • Nathaniel ‘Spokgoane’ Mbele, who was stabbed in the chest in Tshirela, Vanderbijlpark on 2 April.
  • Khulekani Gomazi, 27, who was beaten to death on 3 April in Mpophomeni in KwaZulu-Natal after being accused of sexual assault.
  • Andile ‘Lulu’ Nthuthela, 41, whose mutilated and burned body was found on 10 April in KwaNobuhle, Kariega.
  • Lonwabo Jack, a young LGBTIQ+ individual who had just celebrated his 22nd birthday on 17 April. His lifeless body was found on a pavement the next day in Nyanga, Cape Town.
  • Lucky Kleinboy Motshabi, 30, whose body was found in a field in the town of Dennilton, Limpopo on 24 April. He was naked with stab wounds on his body.
  • Phelokazi Mqathana, 24, who was stabbed to death on the weekend of 1 May in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. It was reported that a man stabbed her after she rejected his advances.
  • Lindokuhle Mapu, 23, who was stabbed to death in Mfuleni, outside of Cape Town, on 9 May.
  • Aubrey Boshoga, 48, whose body was dumped outside his house in Johannesburg on 29 May.
  • Masixole Level, 28, whose body was found on a street in Kwazakhele, in the Eastern Cape, on 6 June.
  • Anele Bhengu, 28, whose stabbed and mutilated body was discovered in KwaMakhutha, KZN, on 13 June.
  • Lulama Mvandaba, who died days after being beaten outside a shebeen in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape in June.
  • The body believed to be that of gay man Sam Mbatha was discovered in his burnt-out car in Klipgat in the North West province on 17 June.
  • Motse Moeketsi, 36, whose body was discovered in Freedom Park in Gauteng after he was reported missing on 18 June.
  • Sheila Lebelo, a 33-year-old lesbian-identifying woman, who was murdered in Atteridgeville, outside of Pretoria, in June.
  • In August, 23-year-old Thapelo Sehata died in hospital following an assault in the town of Senwabarwana in Limpopo.
  • Sisanda Gumede, a 28-year-old lesbian, was stabbed to death in a suspected homophobic hate crime in KwaZulu-Natal on 26 September, allegedly by her cousin.
  • In Johannesburg, Zimasile Zubair Shabangu, 35, was stabbed to death in the early hours of 4 October at the Northriding home of the man alleged to have killed him.
  • Also in October, Sifiso Mxolisi Shange, 27, was killed in the KZN village of Mthwalume. His body was discovered in his room by family members.
  • Limakatso Puling, a lesbian in their 20s, was shot and killed in Avoca Hills, Durban on Tuesday 12 October after being accosted by a group of men.
  • Brian Tootla, a 36-year-old gay man was shot dead by group of men who burst into his Soweto home on 28 December.
  • On 30 December, 24-year-old Letlhogonolo Lentsela was stabbed to death by man in the city of Mmabatho, reportedly after an argument about Lentsela and a friend using the man’s bathroom together.

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