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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fury over lesbian murder trial delay in South Africa

ct Lesbian murder_0691 (14041071)
Gender activists protested yesterday against
the more than 30 postponements of the trial
of men accused of murdering a lesbian.

By Luvuyo Mjekula -

Gender activists protested yesterday against the more than 30 postponements of the trial of men accused of murdering a lesbian. Picture: Cindy waxa
Luvuyo Mjekula
As the trial of nine men charged with the murder of lesbian Zoliswa Nkonyana resumed yesterday after a string of delays, a row over a sworn statement broke out in court and left a crowd of gender activists seething.
One of the accused, Zolile Kobese, among four accused who escaped from custody last year, rejected a warning statement the State alleged he had made shortly after Nkonyana’s murder in February 2006.
The statement contains Kobese’s version of events on the night of Nkonyana’s murder and was apparently written in a blend of Xhosa and Tsotsitaal (a township argot which includes African and Afrikaans words).
Through his newly acquired attorney, Wayne Hencock, Kobese denied ever making or signing the statement and this prompted the State to call for samples of his handwriting and signature to be taken and compared to the statement by an expert.
State prosecutor Alfred Isaacs asked for a postponement as he expected a report from the expert by tomorrow morning.
However, Hencock’s response, that the defence would seek its own expert to do the same, had a group of gender activists protesting in anger.
“I am not happy. It’s a great injustice,” shouted Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activist Mary-Jane Matsolo as more than 100 protesters surrounded her.
She said the case would be delayed again because of a warning statement. There had been more than 30 postponements since the trial went to court in 2006. Nkonyana, 19, was murdered on February 4, 2006 after she had refused to use a male toilet. Nine men aged between 19 and 25 were charged with her murder.
They pleaded not guilty.
The escape of four of the accused from holding cells of the Khayelitsha Regional Court in September last year caused further delays.
When it restarted yesterday, Hencock, who replaced Kobese’s former attorney after the escape, applied for a trial-within-a-trial.
He recalled two State witnesses, police officers Melvyn Geldenhuys and Frank Newman, to the stand and grilled them about the statement.
Geldenhuys and Newman testified they had read Kobese his rights and he had made and signed the statement. Magistrate Raadiyah Wathen postponed the case to tomorrow for the results of the samples.
Outside court, TAC, Social Justice Coalition and Free Gender activists called for speedy justice. “It’s not enough that we are singing, we need to make our feelings and opinions known,” said Matsolo.
Free Gender leader Funeka Soldaat said authorities had promised the case would be prioritised.


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