'Moffie' - homophobic hate breeds murder in the 'rainbow nation'

25 January 2016 - 11:12 By AARTI J NARSEE

“Moffie”. One word, two syllables, a world of pain.

If you hear of a violent hate crime against a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community, you’ll invariably find it was triggered by this word, activists said last week.

It’s a word that’s often heard in the Boland farming town of Ceres, where it led to the killing of aspiring fashion designer Dawid Olyne in 2014. The killer, Christo Oncke, 29, was convicted of murder on January 21.

It also allegedly featured in the murder last month of 30-year-old Phoebe Titus in nearby Wolseley. The transgender woman stood up for herself after being called names, and was stabbed. A 15-year-old appeared in court on Tuesday charged with her murder and will return to court next month.

“In this town the word ‘moffie’ has become a norm … people don’t want to come out of the closet because they feel scared,” said Cameron van Wyk, 34, who has experienced victimisation for being gay since primary school.

There have been at least three more serious homophobic attacks in Ceres since 2000. Gay resident Kenith Abrahams said a gay man was killed in a similar way to Olyne, another was stabbed to death, and a gay man was raped.

Sharon Cox, from the Triangle Project, who has been monitoring the Olyne case, said: “The word ‘moffie’ is where it starts and then it escalates to violence. The minute you call somebody that, you emasculate them and say ‘you are not a real man or woman’."

Abrahams, 34, said people often throw stones at him. “Even though we host gay pageants, Ceres is a very conservative town. People will accept us from a distance but not in their own personal circles.”

Listening to Judge Siraj Desai last Thursday, Oncke sat in the dock shaking and laughing, occasionally holding a crucifix.

The court had been told that Oncke bludgeoned Olyne to death in 2014 and burned his body. His remains were found in a dilapidated pump house on a farm, his limbs tied with wire.

It was alleged Oncke invited children nearby to watch him kill a "moffie".

On the stand, Oncke said he could tell that someone was a homosexual just by looking at him.

He denied claims that he was chanting "burn, fire burn" as he torched Olyne's corpse.

Olyne had worked at the Family Food and Meat Market in Ceres for four years before his death. His manager, Heather Muller, described him as a "jolly" person who always stayed out of trouble.

She "could not fathom" why he was murdered.

"He was a friendly person; he lit up the workplace every morning. He would burst into song, turn up the radio and make me coffee."

Titus was stabbed on December 27 and Elvina Segels, 31, described last week how she watched her friend die after going to a shop to buy cigarettes and “bompies”(ice).

“Phoebe dropped the bompie and then mistakenly stepped on the boy’s toes when she picked it up. They started quarrelling and he called her names,” said Segels.

“She came back and asked me what must she do because it was not the first time they called her a ‘vuilgat moffie’.”

Hairdresser Titus decided to confront the boy and this is when she was allegedly stabbed in the neck.

“She got tired of being called names and was standing up for herself," said Segels.

Matthew Clayton, research advocacy and policy manager at the Triangle Project, said many hate crimes were about “patriarchal social control”.

“What you really notice is that there are really high levels of violence. It’s not just about someone getting shot but someone getting shot and having their body set on fire.”

Keegan Lakay, from Sonke Gender Justice added that hate crimes are fuelled by myths.

"LGBTI people are associated to bestiality, it's seen as sinful and shameful for the family. They are seen as lesser human beings even though they are contributing to the community and the economy. The minute they step out of their places of employment, in the home or socialise they become vulnerable to being abused verbally or physically," he said.

He added that unemployment and lack of education in Ceres contributes to the problem saying that many families not able to put food on the table.

Another contributing factor to hate crimes is drug and alcohol abuse.

Clayton has high hopes for the draft Hate Crimes Bill. “We are cautiously optimistic about what this law can get done,” he said.

The bill is being redrafted by the Department of Justice and will soon be circulated for public comment.




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Gay and women's rights activist Sizakele Sigasa, 34, and lesbian Salome Massooa, 23, murdered


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KwaThema, Gauteng

Lesbian activist and national soccer player Eudy Simelane, 31, raped and murdered


Strand, Western Cape

Lesbian Sibongile Mphelo, 21, raped and shot




Khayelitsha, Cape Town

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Nyanga, Cape Town

Lesbian Ntsiki Tyatyeka, 21, murdered




KwaThema, Gauteng

Lesbian activist Noxolo Nogwaza, 24, raped and murdered


Kwamashu, Durban

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Nyanga, Cape Town

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