Lesbian killing: two go free
Two of the men accused of murdering Zoliswa Nkonyana for being a lesbian have been allowed to walk free.
Nine men stood trial for her 2006 murder in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Each of them was charged with two counts of attempted murder and one of murder.
Last month, lawyers for Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sabelo Yekiso, Anele Gwele, Mbulelo Damba, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Londzi, Zolile Kobese, Themba Dlephu and Mfundo Kulani asked the Khayelitsha Regional Court to drop all charges on the grounds that the state's evidence was "poor".
Magistrate Raadiyah Wathen said yesterday that the state had failed to prove that they had assaulted Nkonyana's friends, Zolani Phatho and Philiswa Magxala, on the night of the murder. He withdrew the attempted murder charges against all the accused.
But only Gwele and Kobese were successful in having the murder charges against them dropped.
Their lawyers argued that witnesses had contradicted each other. Wathen found that the state had failed to link them to the murder.
Nkonyana, 19, was stabbed and stoned to death outside a shebeen in Khayelitsha, reportedly for living openly as a lesbian. She died a few metres from her home.
The case has drawn criticism from all corners of civil society. The police have been lambasted for shoddy work.
The case has been postponed 40 times - according to the state, principally because of problems with the accused.
"Of all the postponements, the vast majority were because of the accused and their defence team," said spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority in Western Cape, Eric Ntabazalila.
"It is common in matters involving so many accused for several postponements. When, for example, one or more accused falls ill, the case cannot continue.
"But the case was also postponed when some of them escaped last year. When they were caught, there were legal representatives who withdrew. New legal representatives were appointed.
"Some ran out of money and they had to approach the Legal Aid Board - all of these caused delays."
Nkonyana's mother, who has stopped attending court, said she was "deeply hurt by the decision" to free Gwele and Kobese.
Yesterday, Londzi took the stand.
He said he saw Nkonyana at a tavern on February 4 2006 and said he knew that she was a lesbian. But he denied attacking her.
He said he saw her body on the pavement when he left the tavern. He looked at her "out of curiosity".
Prosecutor Anthea Allchin asked him to explain how her blood came to be on his shoes.
"Maybe I got it when I went to check the body. I went closer, but not too close, and looked," said Londzi.
Said Allchin: "How is it possible to know that she was a lesbian? You knew that there was a fight ... about her sexual orientation and that was the reason for her attack. You and your friends attacked her because you thought she would take your girlfriends. You were present when Zoliswa was attacked and there is evidence - her blood is on your takkies."
Londzi responded: "I didn't kill anyone."
Activists from the Treatment Action Campaign, Triangle Project, Social Justice Coalition, Free Gender and Khayelitsha residents picketed the court, as they have done since the start of the case.