‘Hear Our Cry’: South Africa's LGBTQ+ Activists Demand Action Amid Homophobic Attacks
President Ramaphosa condemned recent violence on Freedom Day, but activists say it's not enough.
As South Africa celebrated Freedom Day this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa used the opportunity of his national address to call on South Africans to condemn homophobia, after a spate of homophobic murders rocked the country and sparked nationwide protests.
“This is something we should be deeply ashamed of. I want to send a very strong message that hate crime will not be tolerated in our society,” Ramaphosa said.
“Those behind these crimes will be found and brought to the book," he continued. "Nobody has the right to take life and abuse someone else because of their sexuality. No one has that right at all.”
According to a statement signed by more than 20 organisations, published on April 22, at least six people have been killed in "brutal hate crimes" since Feb. 12 this year.
They include Bonang Gaelae, who was killed on Feb. 12; Nonhlanhla Kunene, whose body was found on March 5 in Pietermaritzburg; Sphamandla Khoza, from Durban, who was killed on March 29; Nathaniel 'Spokgoane' Mbele, who died on April 2 in Vanderbijlpark; Andile “Lulu'' Nthuthela, whose body was found on April 10 in Kariega; and Lonwabo Jack, whose body was found the day after his 22nd birthday on April 17.
[Thread] I have some #QueerLivesMatter updates today.— Tutu Zondo (@tutuzondo) April 27, 2021
Because while it may be Freedom Day, today I’m painfully aware that we are still fighting to enjoy basic freedoms as LGBTI+ people in South Africa
Our fight still continues. pic.twitter.com/Ggh9ibPFaz
“Since the dawn of democracy, LGBTIQ+ South Africans have been brutalised, raped, and killed across our nation. The list is long,” the organisations, including Lawyers for Human Rights, Pan Africa ILGA, and GALA Queer Archive, said in their statement.
“Today we still fear to simply be ourselves, to dress how we choose, or to share an embrace — not only in public but also among those who we may count as friends and neighbours,” it continued. “Not only do we fear for our very lives, but we continue to face discrimination all around us… Today, we are here to say enough.”
Following the attacks, the group of organisations has called on Ramaphosa and the government to finalise the implementation of a bill — the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill B9 of 2019 — that would help protect marginalised groups from hate, bias, prejudice, or intolerance.
“Enough is enough! Where will we be safe if our fellow community members and leadership are not at the forefront of leading the charge against hate crimes to members of the LGBTQIA+ community?” the Gay and Lesian Alliance of South Africa (GLASA) said in a statement.
A protest is taking place right now. Outrage over the recent murders of LGBTI people has sparked protests. #JusticeForLonwabo#JusticeForNonhlanhla#JusticeForSpha#JusticeForLulu#JusticeForSpokgoane#JusticeForBonang#NoLawEqualsNoJustice#StopKillingLGBTIpic.twitter.com/hXn2Kx2IH3— Same Love Toti 🏳️🌈 (@SameLoveToti) April 26, 2021
While South Africa was the first country in Africa, and fifth in the world, to legalise same-sex marriage, homophobic murders remain shockingly prevalent.
According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Centre of Risk Analysis at the South African Institute for Race Relations (IRR), four in 10 LGBTQ+ South Africans knew of someone who had been murdered because of their sexuality.