Hate Crimes: Bonisiwe Mtshali trial update
South Africa, 3 April 2013
by Selogadi Mampane
Click here to watch Iranti's 2012 LGBTI Hate Crimes 67 Minutes of Shame, that includes Bonisiwe Mtshali on the right
Nearly one year later, Bonisiwe Mtshali a Black, South African lesbian woman, receives justice after her attack at the Carlton Centre in July of 2012. A successful triumph for Iranti, the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW) and a proud moment and victory for all LGBTI women in South Africa.
In July 2012, Bonisiwe Mtshali was brutally attacked by 3 security guards at the Carlton Centre after seen kissing her lover Khanyisa Ndoda. Phindi Malaza, an activist for LGBTI justice from FEW, called upon Mpho Nefuri, a human rights lawyer, and together with Iranti, we supported Bonisiwe's fight for justice.
The 3 security guards from Hlanganani Protection Services, attacked Bonisiwe, hospitalised her and left her unconscious for three hours. Even as a victim of a hate crime, the police charged Bonisiwe for assaulting the security guards while she was in a coma. However, the fight was not over and almost one year later, we celebrate. The security guards at the Carlton Centre have been found guilty. Bonisiwe has been acquitted. Reminding us to never give up!
Magistrate Moses [reference of name taken from Jabu's Facebook page, waiting for verification] identified that the security guards were in fact intolerant towards Bonisiwe and Khanyi’s sexuality, gender identity and sexual orientation. Bonisiwe and Khanyi were told by the security guards that “this is not a place to kiss” of course, only referring to the kissing between the two women. The Magistrate further pointed out the prevalence of hate crimes and homophobic attacks in South Africa and the need to show that the criminal justice system can provide justice for all citizens of the Republic of South Africa. The security guards have been found guilty of physical assault motivated by their prejudice towards women with same-sex sexual orientations.
However, much still needs to be done to ensure the support of LGBTI human rights in South Africa. Whilst in the wake of the triumph, Iranti celebrates this new victory, only one of the three security guards were convicted, to either pay a fine of R 4 000 or face up to four months in prison. Even though every victory is counted and documented, some leave a bitter sweet ending. Bonisiwe expressed her disappointment in not seeing all of the men charged but was gratified that some justice was served and steps were made to advance human rights advocacy for LGBTI people in South Africa.
In light of the trial, perseverance, community building and support and speaking out are what must be remembered as key components to fighting human rights abuses. Despite the difficulties they faced, Bonisiwe and Khanyi never gave up and sought to seek all and any kinds of justice. Bonisiwe and Khanyi did not win this battle alone but were supported by human rights institutions and activists that galvanised in order to fight discrimination. Together, if we show strength in the face of adversity, we may overcome discrimination.