No arrests four years after lesbian murdered

People still live in fear of hate crimes and are afraid to report them

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Photo of two women with a picture
Lizzy Venfolo and Funeka Soldaat sit inside Venfolo’s home with the portrait of murdered Phumeza Nkolonzi. Photo: Ashleigh Furlong

A mosaic of Phumeza Nkolonzi will hang over a hole in the wall of her grandmother’s bedroom in Nyanga, a hole left by one of the three bullets that were shot at Nkolonzi when the young lesbian woman was killed in 2012.

Lizzy Venfolo, the grandmother, says the police have no updates.

The mosaic was presented to the family by Free Gender – an organisation that provides support for black lesbians and campaigns for gay rights – on the anniversary of Nkolonzi’s death. The portrait was created by artist Ziyanda Majozi.

Venfolo says that she has lost hope that the killer, who was wearing a balaclava when he shot Nkolonzi, will ever be caught.

Since Nkolonzi’s murder, Venfolo has formed a “grannies group” where she and other elderly women attempt to educate the community about gay people.

“I told them I like whatever God creates. I love; I can’t judge,” says Venfolo.

She says often the hardest people to educate about gay issues are the elderly.

Funeka Soldaat, the founder of Free Gender, says that she attempted to contact the station commander in charge of Nkolonzi’s case and asked him to come and speak to Venfolo, but she received no response.

She said that Free Gender wants to constantly remind the community that lesbians are still living in fear of being harmed simply because of who they are, and the fear of reporting a hate crime often prevents them from going to the police.

Soldaat says that they have done a lot of work in the police stations around Khayelitsha but that victims often face more problems when they go to police stations in Nyanga and Gugulethu where they have had less success in providing training.

“Here it seems lesbians are still struggling. They know that they are not going to be taken seriously.”

Where progress is being made is with the Western Cape Provincial LGBTI Task Team, says Soldaat, which will enable complaints to be brought to the attention of those who have the power to make changes.

She hopes that one day portraits like that of Nkolonzi will actually be put up in public spaces as “you never see lesbians in portraits in public spaces”.

TOPICS:  Crime Gender LGBTI

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