Gay and lesbian activists in KwaZulu Natal Province have launched an awareness programme to curb attacks on LGBTI people in the region. The launch of the programme comes 14 months after the brutal murder of Ncumisa Mzamelo in a north Durban Inanda informal settlement.
Mzamelo, 21, was an out and proud lesbian newspaper seller well-known in her community in Bhambayi, Newtown C, Inanda and had been threatened with death a number of times before she was finally murdered. According to a report in the New Age newspaper, her body was so badly burnt that even now forensic results have not been concluded.
The newspaper reports that gay and lesbian activists are at the forefront of the awareness programme that aims to train more than 400 caregivers, NGO members, police officers and ordinary community volunteers about how to recognise hate crime incidents and bring these to the attention of the authorities and, eventually, to courts.
According to the New Age, the Durban Gay and Lesbian Coalition (DGLC), in conjunction with Ethekwini municipality and the Human Rights Commission, are spearheading the programme targeting areas of Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu.
The programme includes among other things, a two-day workshop where participants will be schooled in such matters as hate crime victim identification, the Sexual Offences Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Victims Charter.
The new Age reported that Nonhlanhla Mkhize, of the DGLC and coordinator of the project, said they had decided to embark on a pilot project in the area and they hoped to extend it to other parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
Mkhize told the newspaper, “We chose the area as it has all the elements of our people. It is peri-urban and there have been several instances of attack against gay and lesbians.” She said the project started in April and would run until July. The Ethekwini municipality has taken the project under the wings of Imagine Durban – Safe City programme.
The new Age quoted Mkhize as saying, “We know that there have not been that many cases of abuses reported in these areas. We are concerned about this because we don’t know whether people are scared to report cases of attacks and abuse because of the treatment given to them when they arrive at a police station.”
She cited the police officers and community volunteers working in the Thuthuzela Centres, which are the areas set aside for victims of domestic violence in police stations. “The centres ensure that the people who deal with such cases are trained and able to recognise cases of hate speech abuse and report it accordingly.”
There has been a spate of attacks on gays and lesbians in recent times. Some lesbians have been subjected to what is referred to as “corrective rape”. “It is very sad that even as we celebrate 18 years of democracy, there are still cases of discrimination and attacks in South Africa,” said Mkhize.