South Africa

GROUNDUP

Protesters slam ninth postponement in Khayelitsha murder case

Protesters slam ninth postponement in Khayelitsha murder case
Members of Free Gender protest at Khayelitsha Remembrance Square outside the magistrate’s court after the case was postponed in September. (Archive photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana)

‘The investigating officer messed up and the state needs to take responsibility,’ says Free Gender activist Funeka Soldaat.

  • Phelokazi Mqathanya was murdered in May 2021. Bongani Ngadleka is on trial for her murder.
  • The case was removed from the court roll, then reintroduced in May 2022. Since then it has been postponed nine times.
  • Activists suspect Mqathanya was murdered because she was lesbian.

About 30 people sang and danced outside the Khayelitsha Magistrates’ Court on Monday, protesting against the constant postponing of the case of Phelokazi Mqathanya. She was murdered last year.

The case has now been postponed for the ninth time.

Mqathanya was stabbed to death on 2 May 2021. Mqathanya, who lived in Site C, was lesbian and her family and LGBTQ+ activists believe her murder was a hate crime.

The accused, Bongani Ngadleka, was arrested soon after the murder, but after several delays and four court postponements, the case was removed from the roll on 14 December. The case returned to court on 5 May this year after action by lesbian rights organisation, Free Gender.

Wearing brown sunglasses, a white shirt, grey pants and a grey blazer, Ngadleka stood in the dock for under five minutes before the magistrate announced that his case was being postponed again. The reason for the postponement this time was to allow the prosecutor to determine whether the case should proceed, following representations made by Ngadleka’s legal aid lawyer.

While proceedings were under way inside court, people outside held placards saying, “Justice 4 Phelokazi”, “Enough is enough” and “Phantsi ngokubulala abantwana bethu kwanele” (Down with the killing of our children, it’s enough).

Free Gender’s Funeka Soldaat, who took part in the picket, sighed when asked what she thought of another postponement.

“This case strongly reminds me of Zoliswa Nkonyana’s case. It took six years for justice to be served. We did the same thing when her case… went through many postponements, and eventually the accused were sentenced to 18 years.”

Nkonyana was 19 years old when she was raped and murdered in 2006, just a few metres from her home in Khayelitsha, for being lesbian. Her case took years of processing through Khayelitsha’s criminal justice system before a verdict was reached.

“The difference between Zoliswa’s case and Phelokazi’s is that with this one, we are not fully aware of what is going on. If this case was handled properly by the investigating officer from the start, we would not be in this mess.

“The investigating officer messed up and the state needs to take responsibility,” said Soldaat.

Looking disappointed, Mqathanya’s sister, Phumeza Ndlwana, said, “I am fed up with this case. This is abuse to us. And everything that is happening just feels like a delaying tactic… I know that Bongani will go free — just wait and see,” she said.

The case was postponed to 6 October 2022. DM

First published by GroundUp.

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