A gay woman in Naledi, in Soweto, became yet another victim at the weekend of what is suspected to be a homophobic hate crime following several such attacks in the country over the past few months.
The deceased, 27, who police have identified as Lerato Moloi, known by her friends as ‘Tambai’, was found dead on Sunday, with stab wounds and big stones around her head, police said.
The shocking crime comes only a few days after Karabo Mokoena’s murder made national headlines and amplified the voices of angry citizens protesting the scourge of male violence in South Africa, and the hashtag #MenAreTrash trended on Twitter for most of last week.
Naledi police spokesperson Thulani Mbambala said the murder and possible rape occurred between Saturday and the early of hours of Sunday.
On Sunday at about 7am, community members had a meeting on Lekuru Street in Naledi regarding the long grass near the railway line. While they were busy cutting the grass, they stumbled upon the half-naked body of a woman, said Mbambala.
He continued: “The police were summoned to the scene, and, upon arrival, they found a half-naked woman lying in an open space next to a certain house at Lekuru Street.
“Upon further investigation, it was found that there were big stones next to the head of the woman.
“She also had about three wounds on her neck. A knife was found next to her lifeless body.”
According to him, the police are not ruling out the possibility that the woman might have been raped before she was brutally killed.
Investigations revealed that a male suspect was the last person who was seen with the victim before her death, and that they had had a quarrel about money, police said.
Naledi police members arrested the suspect, aged about 38, at about 8pm on Monday morning.
Mbambala said police “wasted no time” taking the suspect in for questioning, and he was “not very convincing” when answering questions from the investigating officer.
Samples would be taken from both the victim and the suspect to positively link the suspect to the murder, he added.
Due to the sensitive nature of the image that has been circulating on social media, it will not be posted here in its entirety, although the upper half can be seen below. Police could not verify if this photo was indeed linked to the incident.
Gender Equality Programme attorney Sanja Bornman said it seemed reasonable to assume that the extreme violence indicated a possible hate crime given the brutality of previous murders of lesbians, which had in many cases turned out to be motivated by hate or prejudice. She added, however, that we could not be certain until police investigations confirmed it.
“It is important to note that we do not have a legal definition of hate crime in South Africa. This victim’s case will be investigated as a murder, not a murder that is a hate crime. That is why we want a hate crimes law, and why the Department of Justice recently released a draft hate crime law for public comment.
“There is a gap in our law, and we need to fix it.”
The attack in Naledi occurred shortly after the funeral of another murdered lesbian woman in the Free State at the weekend.
The burnt body of Nonkie Smous was discovered on April 4 in the Maokeng township of Kroonstad, and it was only confirmed earlier this month to be hers after DNA tests, MambaOnline reported.
She was buried this past Saturday.
According to the LGBTI news website, Smous was an openly lesbian welder.
Only three days before Smous’ murder, MambaOnline reported a lesbian woman was attacked by three men in Potchefstroom. She was allegedly stabbed, hit on the head with a stone and raped by two of the men.
She was hospitalised with injuries she sustained from the attack.