Protesters slam ninth postponement in murder case

“The investigating officer messed up and the state needs to take accountability” says Funeka Soldaat

By Mary-Anne Gontsana

5 September 2022

Photo of protest at Khayelitsha Remembrance Square

Members of Free Gender protest at Khayelitsha Remembrance Square outside the magistrate’s court. Photo: Mary-Anne Gontsana

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

The case has now been postponed for the ninth time since May.

Mqathanya was stabbed to death on 2 May 2021. Mqathanya, who lived in Site C, was lesbian and her family and LGBT+ 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 court’s roll on 14 December. The case was brought back to court on 5 May this year following action by Free Gender, a lesbian rights organisation.

Wearing brown sunglasses, a white shirt, grey pants and a grey blazer, Ngadleka stood in the dock for less than 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 the proceedings were going on inside court, outside people 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,” said Soldaat.

Nkonyana was 19 years old when she was raped and murdered in 2006, just a few metres outside her house 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 one, 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 accountability,” 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.