Makhotso Sotyu being sworn in as Deputy Minister of Police last year.
(Pic: Government Communications)

The Deputy Minister of Police Makhotso Maggie Sotyu has apologised to LGBT victims of anti-gay violence in a speech at a recent conference on hate crimes.

The event, at the Matthew Goniwe High School Hall, was organised by Free Gender, a group of “young Black Queer South Africans” in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, earlier this month.

It was also attended by the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, the Deputy Minister for Human Settlements, Zou Kota-Fredericks and the Deputy Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Marius Fransman.

“On behalf of the Minister of Police, and as a Deputy Minister of Police, I would like to open my remarks by an unconditional apology to all those that have been brutalised, attacked, discriminated against, and raped solely because they have a different sexual orientation,” said Sotyu.

“Homophobia and hate crimes are unacceptable, and we are saying as ANC-led government, enough is enough. We will and cannot tolerate that, some section of our citizens continue to suffer in painful silence whilst their own Constitution protects them to live the lifestyle they choose, lawfully.”

“…we have a duty to give true meaning to the fundamental principle our Constitution.”

She added: “Just like we bravely stood against the tyranny of apartheid, we must indeed together stand up to intolerance, discrimination and violence against diversity.”

Sotyu acknowledged that some people reject others with different sexual orientation on religious grounds and on the basis that they are “un-African”.

“But,” she said, “we are here as South African Police Service to say, we have a duty to give true meaning to the fundamental principle our Constitution, which says: ‘All shall have equal rights before the Law’.

“The Constitution is non-ambiguous on this issue, and sends a clear provision which allows all adults to choose relationships while enjoying equal protection by the law,” she said.

The police and the judicial system have been accused of incompetence and lack of interest when it comes to cases involving LGBT hate crimes, with some court cases taking years to conclude.

Sotyu promised to take action within the police force to make it easier for victims of hate crimes to report attacks, and to “re-train our police officers to be able to investigate thoroughly these types of crime, and to ensure that the victims receive all the support they need”.

She added that the Independent Complaints Directorate is being strengthened to “make sure that they are an independent and impartial oversight body over the behaviour of the police”.

The South African Police Service is part of a recently formed task team consisting of government departments and LGBT groups working to deal with the scourge of hate crimes against LGBT people.

According to an ActionAid report in March last year, more than 30 lesbian women have been reported murdered in homophobic attacks since 1998. This year alone, at least three lesbian women have lost their lives.

Support groups stress that because hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation are not recognised or recorded by the South African criminal justice system, the actual number of women killed is likely to be much higher. Only a handful of cases have ever made it to the courts.

Read Sotyu’s full speech here.

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