Discovery of Nomvula Chenene’s body a scary reminder lesbian people aren’t safe – LGBTQI community

Murder accused Sizwe Buthelezi abandoned his bid for bail.
Murder accused Sizwe Buthelezi abandoned his bid for bail.
Fani Mahuntsi

One of her friends was so angry that she threw a cellphone at him while he was getting out of the dock and going back to the holding cells. 

He dodged and continued on his way down.

“Ibulale umngani wami lenja le” – loosely translated as “this dog killed my friend” – were the words uttered by the friend as she was escorted out of the courtroom.

Tensions were high as different organisations in the LGBTQI community and political parties were outside the court, singing and chanting.

They were infuriated by the death of Nomvula Chenene, a lesbian who is also the sister to the former Orlando Pirates player Bennet Chenene.

LGBTI community, Femicide, hate crime
The LGBTI community says the death of lesbian women in the Vaal is concerning

Their anger also stemmed from the fact that they had been searching for the deceased for the past three months, only to find that she had been killed and buried in a shack two streets away from her home.

Sizwe Buthelezi (34) is charged with murder after Nomvula Chenene’s body was found in a shack that he was renting with his girlfriend and three kids.

He made his first appearance at the Vereeniging Magistrate's Court in the Vaal, South of Joburg, on Tuesday sitting in front of Regional Magistrate Chris Kruger where he abandoned his bid for bail. He applied for legal aid, and his matter was postponed to May for further investigation.

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Speaking to Drum after the court adjourned Nomvula’s cousin, Ntswaki Chenene, says the family is shattered by what they recently found.

“We couldn’t sleep, and we were always praying to look for Nomvula hoping that she will come back. But she was close to home all this time. We are hurt, and we want justice for Nomvula, we want something to happen because all this while her body was close to home. Our sister was brutally killed we need justice for her death.”

She hopes Nomvula won’t be just another woman added to the stats of Gender Based Violence and Femicide. Ntswaki says a lot of women die not knowing why they are being killed.

“We are living in fear, we can’t walk freely in the streets as women because we are one step away from being killed. And when it comes to the LGBTQI community, our siblings did not choose to be who they are, the society must accept people as they are. Nomvula is our sister. We love her the way she is, we deserve justice.”

LGBTI community, Femicide, hate crime
The Chenene family at court

Buthelezi was allegedly reported by his girlfriend who is said to be in witness protection, and she is cooperating with the state and will be one of the state witnesses. Ntswaki says the girlfriend should also be behind bars for keeping quiet for so long.

“The only reason why she told the police everything was because her boyfriend was chasing her with an axe. She must be behind bars as well. She took time to come out with the truth and that doesn’t mean that she is innocent.”

The killing of lesbians in the Vaal is concerning, according to Nombango Mpitsa the convener of the ANC’s Women’s young desk under the LGBTQI community, lesbians are killed on a regular while the perpetrators are having it easy even when they go behind bars.

Read more | ‘It could have been me’ – Sex worker reveals alleged encounter with murder accused Sifiso Mkhwanazi

“We are saddened by the fact that the killers are always offered legal help. We feel that we are being failed by the justice system in the Vaal we have so many murders every year we bury a lesbian that was killed by a man, and we only had one successful case where the killer was charged. The justice system doesn’t protect us, we are not protected at home, we are killed by people who are not strangers, and we are told that there is a lack of evidence.”

Nombango says as the LGBTQI community they are pleading with the government to ensure that Nomvula gets justice.

LGBTI community, Femicide, hate crime
The LGBTI organisations showed in numbers in court to support the Chenene family

“She had been missing for almost 4 months, the person who did this knew Nomvula and didn’t live far from where Nomvula lives, and he knew Nomvula’s sexuality.

"We feel that this is a hate crime and we need to be protected because we are killed like animals in our own country. The Magistrate should give this person a harsher sentence we do not want to see him outside because we don’t know who is next.”

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