Lesbian’s 4 Killers Sentenced to 18 Years


Four South African men have been sentenced to 18 years in prison for the murder of 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana in 2006, with the court finding that the men stabbed and stoned the young woman to death because she was open about being a lesbian.

This ruling has been hailed as extremely significant in a nation where there are constiuttional protections for gay people but homophobia remains widespread.

Via the BBC:

The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says the sentence handed out in the Nkonyana case is highly significant – both because of its length and the fact that the magistrate concluded that Ms Nkonyana was killed for being a lesbian.

For years activists have been calling on the state to be tougher on people who kill or attack people because of their sexual orientation – and they want the state to recognise hate crimes against lesbians, she says.


The magistrate said it was clear the motive for the killing was hatred and homophobia – and Wednesday’s sentence was meant to send out a signal that violence based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated, the South African Press Association reports.

The men in question, Lubabalo Ntlabathi, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Londzi and Mbulelo Damba, were each given 18 years. However, five other people were acquitted.

Local LGBT rights groups have praised the strong nature of the ruling.

Via the AFP:

The Triangle Project, a Cape Town gay rights organisation, said that the verdict’s language had set a legal precedent for sentencing in future hate crimes.

“It was truly a significant victory for us in terms of setting some kind of precedent for future cases that involve an element of hate or discrimination or bias in respect of sexual orientation,” Jayne Arnott, the group’s director, told AFP.

“The magistrate in the sentencing recognised that Zoliswa had a right to live openly as she chose, as a lesbian in the community, and that there was a clear indication of intolerance and hatred towards her on these grounds.

Human Rights Watch has been particularly concerned with a number of attacks in the past five years that they believe to have been “corrective rape” assaults, that is to say where a woman is sexually violated in order to try and “cure” her or punish her for being a lesbian.

Among the most recent cases is that of Noxolo Nogwaza, 24, who is believed to have been the victim of a brutal hate crime murder just hours after leaving her girlfriend in a township near Johannesburg on April 23 of last year, and that of a 13 year old girl who claims she was raped because she identifies as a lesbian.

Related Rights:

Activists Say Brutal Murder of South African Lesbian a Hate Crime

13-Year-Old Lesbian Latest Victim of “Corrective” Rape in South Africa

U.N. Approves Resolution Against Anti-Gay Discrimination

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to mrbill.


Samantha Richardson

I'm glad they gave such tough sentences, and that is a win, so I am going to focus on that. When so many LGBTQ people are suffering so much and being victims of hate crimes everyday, hearing a case where the judge not only rightfully punishes those responsible, but also proclaims hate crimes will not be tolerated, is a step in the right direction.

krista g.
krista g5 years ago

18 years for STABBING and STONING a young woman to death? That is an extremely violent, hateful and intentional, thought-out crime. Shouldn't these murderers be facing life in prison?

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe6 years ago

I am glad these 4 men got prison time, but why were five other people acquitted? They should have gotten prison time, also. Murder is murder. Give them prison time, too.

Nicola Pole
Erica S6 years ago

Finally taking a step in the right direction.

Jay Williamson
Jay w6 years ago

shame zoliswa had to die but at least this will set a precedent for future attacks might make men stop and think before they kill next time

Jackie Agusta
Jackie Agusta6 years ago

At least they were tried and sentenced. Do I think the sentence should be higher? YES but it wasn't that long ago that a crime like this would have gone unpunished...:-(

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S6 years ago

How sad that someone had to be murdered so brutally and known so publicly before any attempts are begun to protect people. Sometimes progress is slow, and 18 years seems lenient. I hope they don't have any chance of parole on top of this light sentence.

Isabel Ramirez
Isabel Ramirez6 years ago

18 years is all they get? it's murder what they committed.

New G.
W. C6 years ago

Agree with Martha E.

Kellie N.
Kellie N6 years ago

Marianne C.
9:47pm PST on Feb 4, 2012
Eighteen years in a South African prison could be a deaths sentence. Which might even be fair, since that's what they gave their victim.

Good point. I didn't think about it like that!!!