As South Africa celebrates 27 years of democratic rule, socio-economic challenges stand as a stumbling block to reaping the fruits of democracy. Gender-based violence has been labelled a pandemic, as it continues to wreak havoc in communities.
Women, children and LGBTQIA+ community are vulnerable to senseless killings, and sexual abuse. The Eastern Cape has recently reported a number of cases where the LGBTQIA+ community, women and children have been victims of the GBV scourge. This has also been prevalent in rural areas, where women are mostly targeted.
Within a year, five young women were recovered dumped in the bushes of Port St Johns, six family members were hacked to death in Elliotdale, and just a few weeks ago, a senseless killing of Andile Ntuthela for allegedly being openly gay.
This sparked outrage among LGBTQIA+ community. The recent murder of 48-year-old Ntombifuthi Qhawula in Port St Johns shocked this community.
Elderly women, Noxolile Fotiki and Nogingqi Taleni, say they now live in fear.
“The killing of women is really bad and it is traumatising. The brutal murder of the young woman from Qawula family is shocking and we are calling on government to protect us,” says Fotiki.
“I am very scared right now because I am not sure who is next. We are not safe. As a result, I am forced to sleep early because I am staying alone. Our only hope now as elderly people is our government,” says Taleni.
Port St Johns Mayor, Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo has called on communities to unite in fighting the scourge of gender-based violence.
“Things that are more painful are when somebody dies in the name of love. That is what is very painful. But I think as Port St Johns, we need to unite. That is why you heard me saying men should be at the forefront. We cannot solve this as women who are abused, but we need men to make sure that they make a declaration of protecting us,” says the Mayor.
The LGBTQIA+ community is up in arms over the killings of people belonging to this community recently. They have attributed these incidents to patriarchy, gender–based violence, hatred for this community.
Andile “Lulu” Ntuthela’s life was cut short, allegedly for being gay. His remains were found burnt and buried in a shallow grave at KwaNobuhle Township in Kariega. He left a void in his family.
Family Spokesperson, Thembisa Ntuthela, says he left a void in his family.
“As a family, we feel sad and shocked because he died in a very brutal manner. Our Lulu was a very good person. Wherever he went people loved him so much. We understand, as a family, that he was gay and we have accepted that and we loved him. We are very hurt as a family. This person took away our golden boy. He was a star in our family. It hurts,” Ntuthela says.
For many years, the LGBTQIA+ community has been fighting years for acceptance in communities. But 27 years into democracy, this community is still fighting the same battles.
Co-chair of the LGBTQIA+ Hate Crime Task Team, Sibonelelo Ncanana, says one life is too many and is calling for an end to the brutal and senseless killings.
“Government is really not on par with what is going on in the community and they need to come to the table and clarify, play their part. For something like this to happen to Lulu is a reminder that we are not safe. No, we do not feel safe in SA and free, especially for us as the LGBTIQ community. Even going to shops is difficult. So, government must really step in and come to the play, ground and help us,” says Ncanana.
The pace of sentencing GBV perpetrators always sparks debates, with many believing it is slow.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says they have a new strategy to fast-track cases.
Spokesperson Luxolo Tyali says, “We have put together a strategy as the division or in our region where we make sure in cases where people plead guilty, they are fast-tracked because we cannot keep people guessing as to what will be the final result of the case.”
Social Development MEC, Siphokazi Mani Lusithi, says justice system should do more to deal with gender–based violence and other social ills.
“Our issue is that there needs to be urgency in how we deal with gender–based violence. There needs to be gender sensitivity in our courts, because we see the second victimization of survivors of gender–based violence in the justice system in the courts.”
Police Minister Bheki Cele also called on police to speedily attend to all gender–based violence cases.
“There is one complaint that we now and again receive to say when people go to the police station they are told to go back and come back to the police station or go back and negotiate and sometimes even ridiculed to say was this the way you were dressing up. We are really calling our members of the SAPS to stop that,” says Cele.
Public awareness campaigns are being held to minimise gender–based violence cases. These are also meant to educate communities on coexisting with the LGBTQIA+ community.