Fears Joburg Grindr Gang Seven Could Walk Free


The Grindr gang accused have been charged with kidnapping, attempted murder, and extortion (Photo: Access Chapter 2)

The seven alleged Grindr Gang criminals arrested last year for kidnapping and almost killing a Johannesburg student could be set free without facing trial.

The accused — Sanele Ndlovu, Vikani Khanyeza, Sohollo Khumalo, Sphamandla Mavundla, Lungisani Mshabalala, Thulani Mazibuko, and Khayelihle Zulu — appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court on Wednesday, facing charges of kidnapping, attempted murder, and extortion.

Nine months after their high-profile September 2023 arrest, their trial has yet to start due to several delays and postponements, most recently because not all the men had legal representation.

According to Virginia Magwaza of Parents, Families and Friends of South African Queers (PFSAQ), which has been monitoring the case, the magistrate indicated at Wednesday’s hearing that the prosecution has not yet signed documentation confirming that they are proceeding with the case.

Magwaza said that after postponing the matter once again, this time to 11 July, “The magistrate clearly stated that if the prosecution cannot make a decision by next week, the case is going to be struck from the roll.”

Magwaza expressed her alarm at this possibility. “The student nearly lost his life, people are still being attacked through dating apps – we can’t have these seven hooligans getting out of this scot-free.”

Queer Lives at Stake

It is unclear why the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) might not prosecute the men. MambaOnline has contacted both the Gauteng Provincial spokesperson for the NPA and the prosecutor in the case for an explanation but has not received a response.

If the men are released without being tried for their alleged actions, this will further embolden other members of the Grindr Gang syndicate who continue to target LGBTIQ+ people on dating apps, often without repercussions.

“This means that the lives of queer people who use these apps will continue to be at stake and justice will have failed us,” asserted Magwaza.

Wits University LGBTIQ+ student campus group Activate is planning a protest outside the Johannesburg Magistrates Court at 8:00 on 11 June to call for justice.

“We are asking our community – LGBTIQ+ folks, and our allies – to show up for the Wits victim, and many other queer people who have been targeted by the Grindr Syndicate,” said the organisation.

Severe Beatings Left Victim in ICU

The suspects are accused of luring the 18-year-old Wits student to a fake date through Grindr on 19 September 2023. They held him against his will, subjected him to severe physical beatings, and demanded a ransom of R30,000 from his family.

The victim was rescued and the men arrested after one of the alleged perpetrators was caught by police attempting to withdraw ransom funds from an ATM. The student was so badly assaulted that he was admitted to ICU for several days.

The attack is just one of many similar incidents targeting members of South Africa’s LGBTIQ+ community on dating apps and sites over the past decade.

While most incidents have been reported in Gauteng, there have also been victims in Cape Town and Durban. Many are lured through the Grindr dating app, although criminals also use other platforms including Surge and Facebook.

Most recently, three Soweto men were arrested in Cape Town in connection with several Grindr Gang incidents in that city. The men were found to be implicated in other attacks in Gauteng, including two pending court cases.

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