Murdered: 24-year-old Thapelo Makhutle

Groups and organisations across South Africa, including the DA and Cosatu, have condemned the recent brutal murder of a young gay/trans individual in Kuruman.

Twenty-four-year-old Thapelo Makhutle’s throat was slit in the early hours of Saturday in his rented room after he had been out with friends. There are unconfirmed reports that he earlier had an argument with two men over his sexuality and gender identity.

On Tuesday, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the Northern Cape expressed its shock and sadness at the killing

“Our deepest and sincere condolences go to his family and the community of Kuruman for this monstrous behaviour. We call on the SAPS in Kuruman to ensure that the police do not rest until the perpetrators are brought to book,” said the union.

“As Cosatu we condemn any behaviour that seeks to prejudice people on the basis of their sexual orientation and beliefs. We respect the rights of all individuals as enshrined in the constitution of our country and life is a principle right.”

Health4Men, which provides sexual health services for men who have sex with men (MSM) across the country, said that it was outraged at the incident, describing it as a “hate crime on the basis of sexual identity and an extreme example of the ongoing prejudice and violence perpetuated against gay men in South Africa”.

It noted the tragic irony that Makhutle was so horribly murdered during Youth Month.

The organisation suggested that recent calls by Patekile Holomisa, President of Contralesa, to remove the protection of equal rights for gay people from the Constitution, have helped perpetuate the idea that being gay is alien to the country.

“The notion that homosexuality is unAfrican or foreign to traditional culture and values must be challenged more directly,” Health4Men said.

Mmapaseka ‘Steve’ Letsike, Health4Men’s advocacy and training manager, urged the authorities in the Northern Cape to apprehend the responsible parties with urgency.

“It is totally unacceptable that hate crimes against the gay community are not treated with sufficient diligence. We demand that the criminal-justice system starts taking this matter more seriously at national, provincial and regional levels,” she said.

Lindiwe Mazibuko, Parliamentary Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA), also issued a statement expressing her sadness at Makutle’s murder.

“This violent and gruesome assault is yet another reminder that many of our country’s people are still denied the basic rights and freedoms which our Constitution enshrines,” she said.

Mazibuko condemned the “silence from the Presidency” on the issue of hate crimes against LGBT people, including the epidemic of attacks on lesbian women.

“This silence is made worse by the fact that President Zuma has in the past shown himself to be prejudiced towards homosexuals,” she said, adding, “President Zuma must speak out against this weekend’s horrific murder, and the many others like it, which are in danger of becoming all too commonplace in our country today.”

Mazibuko noted that the DA had welcomed the establishment of a government-led Joint Task Team on LGBT hate crimes in September 2011, under the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, but pointed out that the team “had yet to make any report on its work”.

The task team has also not issued any statement on Makhutle’s murder. Recent repeated attempts by Mambaonline to contact the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development about the state of the Task Team have been ignored.

On Wednesday, SAPA reported that Zuma’s spokesperson Mac Maharaj said the government’s record on supporting gender and gay rights was well known.

“We take any event that does not uphold these rights, that violates these rights, as a blot on our society and it needs to be counteracted at every level in our society,” he told the news agency.

• Please see the latest update on the murder here.

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