The student abused and humiliated on camera by racist and anti-gay thugs in Russia appears not to be South African after all.
On Monday, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) confirmed that the youth, believed to be 20-years-old, is not a South African citizen as originally believed.
DIRCO Spokesperson Clayson Monyela told Mambaonline that his department had received information on the matter from the South African ambassador in Russia, the Russian authorities and the university where the young man was studying.
“He is not South African,” said Monyela, “He is a Swazi national. The SA Embassy in Moscow has a record of all SA students studying in Russia and he is definitely not on our books.”
Monyela added that reports identifying the victim as “David Smith” were also false.
Addressing claims that he was expelled from the university for reporting the homophobic incident, Monyela said that he was actually expelled for “academic poor performance”.
Finally, the spokesperson stated that the young man was now back in Swaziland and that “we have passed on what we know to his government”.
Pretoria attorney Coenie Kukkuk, who had written letters to the South African authorities calling for an investigation into the attack, said he was relieved that the whereabouts of the victim are now known.
However, he expressed concern that the young man had been outed in the media around the world and could face further discrimination in Swaziland.
“We’re very happy that it seems that he is safe but being back in Swaziland as a gay man doesn’t really change his position because he doesn’t enjoy the same constitutional rights as South Africans,” said Kukkuk.
“If fact, his situation at home will probably be worse than before he left for Russia.”
Homosexuality is illegal in Swaziland, which is an absolute monarchy that has been widely condemned for its poor human rights record.
While arrests and prosecutions of gays and lesbians are rare, they face widespread societal discrimination.
The young Swazi man, who was studying in the Russian city of Belgorod, was the victim of the neo-Nazi Occupy Paedophilia movement.
The group conducts “sting” operations in which it lures young gay men into being abused and humiliated while being filmed.
In the video, the victim was forced to strip, simulate oral sex on a beer bottle and say racist slurs. He was also slapped, had his hair shaved and was made to kiss a watermelon, which was then smashed into his face.