Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mixed Verdict in S. African Lesbian’s Murder Trial

A Mixed Verdict in Trial for South African Lesbian’s Death -
DELMAS, South Africa — Eudy Simelane was a 31-year-old lesbian activist and one of this nation’s best female soccer players, a tall, muscular woman who knew how to defend herself with her fists and her elbows. She could not have been easy to kill.

Before leaving her naked body face down in a drainage ditch, her murderers stabbed her nine times, said the doctor who performed the autopsy. Three of the deep cuts were in the upper inside of her thighs. Those wounds as well as the bruising at the entrance of her vagina led the doctor to conclude that the assailants had tried to rape her.

In February, one of the attackers, Thato Mpithi, 23, pleaded guilty to murder, implicating three other men before denying their involvement almost six months later. On Tuesday, in a courtroom here in Delmas, two of the men he named were acquitted for lack of evidence, though the judge, Ratha Mokgoathleng, warned that they might someday have to answer to God.

The other man on trial, Themba Mvubu, 24, had no reasonable explanation for his trousers’ being stained with Ms. Simelane’s blood. He received a life sentence but walked from the courtroom smiling, showing no contrition and telling a reporter, “Ach, I’m not sorry at all.” He disappeared down a stairway to a holding cell as some of Ms. Simelane’s friends shouted that they would prefer he be sliced into pieces.

Ms. Simelane, who was killed in April 2008, was one of 18,148 murder victims in the 12 months that ended in March. Tuesday was also the day the South African Police Service released its annual crime report. The data showed 339 fewer homicides than in the previous 12-month period, an improvement that still left this country of 49 million people with one of the world’s highest murder rates. At the same time, the number of reported sex crimes jumped to 70,514, up nearly 7,000. Burglaries of homes and businesses also increased sharply.

South Africans are obsessed with the violent crime in their midst, and earlier this month the new police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, tried to reassure them. “We are tired of waving nice documents like the Constitution” at criminals, he said, vowing instead to “meet the thugs head-on, and if it means we kill when we shoot them, so be it.”

The problem with such tough talk, gay and lesbian groups say, is that it often excludes crimes directed at them. They claim they are special targets of violence, and snickering, abusive police officers do little to protect them or pursue their complaints....

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