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Activists tackle defence lawyers in lesbian’s murder

Resource type: News

Cape Times (South Africa) |

by NATASHA JOSEPH GENDER activists say they are to lodge complaints with the Law Society of South Africa against several lawyers representing nine men accused of beating a lesbian to death more than two years ago. On February 4, 2006, Zoliswa Nkonyana, 18, was kicked, hit and stabbed by a group of about 20 men – apparently because of her sexual orientation. Seven of the nine men have been in custody since December 2006, while two are out on bail. Activists believe that several of the men’s present or past lawyers have contributed to numerous delays in the trial, which continues in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court today. At least one of the nine defendants has changed his lawyer more than once. There are now six lawyers representing the nine men. Keegan Lakay, of the Commission for Gender Equity, said representatives of a number of NGOs, including the Triangle Project, had met on Thursday and decided to lodge complaints against several lawyers involved in the case. A letter outlining their complaints would be sent to the Law Society of South Africa, Lakay said. They also intended to write to the provincial Department of Justice complaining about the delays in the case. The nine men have appeared in court 16 times since their arrest, and no evidence has yet been led. “This is justice delayed not only for the victim’s family, but also for the families of the accused,” Lakay said. “We hope there are no further delays.” The state is expected to call its first witness – a young woman who was with Nkonyana on the day of the attack and who was injured by the mob – today. The witness, aged 19, is about to begin writing her matric exams in the Eastern Cape. Marlow Valentine, of the Triangle Project, said: “The witness has arrived from the Eastern Cape and (the Triangle Project) has begun to offer her emotional support and prepare her for her testimony.” Valentine said it was important that the witness took the stand today because she was about to begin her exams. He said there was a chance that the prosecution would call for a trial within a trial today to contest the submission of a defendant’s confession as evidence. On August 27, accused number four, Sicelo Mace, told the court that he had been told by the investigating officer that he had to confess. Last year, after three lesbians had been murdered in two weeks, Human Rights Watch called on President Thabo Mbeki to do more to protect lesbians and other women. Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Masooa were found dead in Soweto on July 8 last year. The body of Thokozane Qwabe was found in a field in Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal, on July 22.

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