Family and friends of murdered Phelokazi Mqathanya unveil mural in Khayelitsha

A mural of Phelokazi Mqathanya who was murdered in 2021

Nozuko Ndlwana, sings while looking on at the mural of her sister Phelokazi Mqathanya who was murdered in 2021. The mural, painted on the front wall of Mqathanya’s house, was unveiled on Saturday in Site C in Khayelitsha. (Photos: Mary-Anne Gontsana)

About 50 people marched through the streets of Site C in Khayelitsha, Cape Town on Saturday. This was ahead of the unveiling of a mural in honour of murdered Phelokazi Mqathanya.

Mqathanya was stabbed to death on 2 May 2021. Her relatives and activists believe her murder was a hate crime because she was lesbian. GroundUp covered the progress of the case against the man accused of killing Mqathanya. There were countless delays in the investigations in addition to court postponements.

The matter was first removed from the court roll on 14 December 2021, but was brought back to court on 5 May 2022 following action by activists at Free Gender. There followed well over a dozen postponements.

In October the case was postponed because the prosecutors were not in court. The trial was expected to start in January, but the accused was not at court due to “transport issues” at Pollsmoor Prison and this caused another delay.

The accused was ultimately found not guilty of Mqathanya’s murder on 27 January 2023 due to insufficient evidence presented by the state.

Friend and family hold up a banner calling for justice for Phelokazi Mqathanya

Relatives of Phelokazi Mqathanya march in Khayelitsha in cold and wet weather.

On Saturday, activists and relatives of Mqathanya braved the cold and wet weather to march in the streets to her home with a large banner which read: “Justice now for Phelokazi”.

Addressing the crowd before the mural, Free Gender’s Funeka Soldaat, said, “The court took a decision that the accused is not guilty. But in our hearts we know that someone killed her. We cannot continue to be killed by faceless people. We are hurt today.”

The mural, painted on the front wall of Mqathanya’s home, is from a photograph of her in a chef’s uniform. Her family explained that Mqathanya was an aspiring chef who was set on furthering her career in the United Kingdom. She was meant to leave the same week she was stabbed to death.

Artist Noleen Karumazondo said it took her three days to complete the mural. “I never knew about Phelokazi until I was approached, and because of her story, this was the most emotional work I’ve ever done. It wasn’t easy,” she said.

Mqathanya’s sister Nozuko Ndlwana sang Brenda Fassie’s Memeza (Shout out/scream out). She said, “As family and Free Gender we are heartbroken because Phelokazi’s court case went in a very unexpected way. We wanted her picture [here] so that we will never forget her. We will never heal from the outcome of the court case.”


This article by Mary-Anne Gontsana was first published by GroundUp.

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