Some Go Down, Some Walk in S. Africa Lesbian Rape and Murder Trial
The trial of four defendants accused in the rape and stabbing death of South African lesbian pro soccer player Eudy Simelane ended with two men convicted and two going free.
The four were detained in police custody after one of the men, 23-year-old Thato Mpithi, admitted to the killing and named the other three, including Themba Mvubu, Johannes Mahlangu, and one other, according to a Sept. 22 New York Times article.
Mpithi had told the authorities last February that the other three men were involved, the article said.
However, Mpithi later reversed himself, claiming to have become a born-again Christian and saying that he earlier had lied about the other three being participants in the rape and murder, the Times article said.
When Mpithi withdrew his testimony, only one of the three he had named--Themba Mvubu--was convicted, on the strength of Mvubu’s trousers being stained with the victim’s blood.
The Times story reported that Mvubu evinced no remorse as he walked from the court room, flashing a grin and saying, "Ach, I’m not sorry at all."
Mvubu was sentenced to a life term.
The sentiment is consistent with a view that gays and lesbians should be assaulted, even killed. Indeed, the phenomenon of so-called "corrective rape" is a scourge suffered by lesbians in the country, which is plagued by one of the world’s highest rates of violent crime, including murder and sexual assault.
Moreover, the Times article noted, gay victims feel that the police are of no help, and are even openly homophobic.
The court did not convict the others, due to a lack of evidence. However, the judge in the case, Ratha Mokgoathleng, did not take that lack as a guarantee that the two who were not convicted were not guilty; the article said that Judge Mokgoathleng, albeit uncomfortable with testimony that the victim was a lesbian (he sought to have another word used to describe her sexuality), opined that a higher justice might yet await the men who went free.
The case of Simelane’s murder has been compared to the killing of Matthew Shepard, a crime that ignited a greater awareness of anti-gay violence in America.
However, one the versions of Mpithi’s story is that he and the other three men whom he had originally named as accomplices had targeted Simelane for robbery, and not due to her being an open lesbian.
Mpithi said that he was not aware of his victim’s identity, the Times reported, and that when the men found she had no money, Mahlangu suggested rape.
However, Simelane knew Mvubu, Mpithi said, and it was because of this that she was murdered.
Earlier accounts said that Simelane had been stabbed up to 25 times. The Times article said that she suffered nine stab wounds, three of which were to her inner thighs.
The article said that unlike many South African townships, Simelane’s home town, Kwa Thema, was largely accepting of gays and lesbians.
The victim’s father, Khotso Simelane, was quoted as saying of the two who went free, "Those two should never come back to Kwa Thema."
Added Mr. Simelane, "Eudy was loved, and the mob will kill them for stealing the life of my daughter."