Two lesbians brutally murdered as ‘war on queerness’ spirals out of control in South Africa

South Africa

A further two lesbians have been brutally murdered in South Africa as a deadly wave of homophobic violence continues to spread unchecked.

The mutilated body of 22-year-old Anele Bhengu was found in Kwamakhutha, south of Durban, on Sunday (13 June). She had been raped and stabbed repeatedly, her throat and abdomen was slit and she had been disemboweled.

According to Mamba Online, the young woman had gone to stay with a friend for the weekend but apparently decided to return home at night. She was not seen alive again.

Bhengu’s death came days after that of another gay woman, Lulama Mvandaba, whose body was discovered on Friday (11 June) inside her home in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.

Speaking to IOL, local ward councillor Xolisa Ngwekazi relayed reports that she was assaulted on 5 June by three men.

“She was discovered by her neighbours after they broke down the door,” he said.

“When the police arrived, they said her death was of natural cause, but it was only discovered by the undertaker later that she had bled, had bruises and swollen breasts with burn wounds that possibly indicated that she could have been assaulted with a burning object.”

The murders are the latest in a spate of horrifying attacks on the LGBT+ community that has claimed the lives of at least 16 known queer people since February.

The true scale of violence may never be known as most hate crime cases go undetected, according to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, because witnesses are reluctant to come forward.

“This is a crisis, and it is worse than we thought, it is a war on queerness,” said Kamva Gwana, an organiser from the LGBT+ movement Queer Lives Matter, speaking to Reuters.

Almost all of the recent murders happened in South Africa’s townships, where activists say there is less policing and dense housing that makes it harder to hide away.

Mvandaba’s body was found in Khayelitsha, the same township where another lesbian, 24-year-old Phelokazi Ndlwana, was stabbed to death outside a bar last month.

Meanwhile in the Eastern Cape township of Kwazakhele, the body of 28-year-old gay hairstylist Masixole Level was found in the street with 16 stab wounds.

The LGBT+ community also mourns Lonwabo Jack, a 22-year-old found murdered on his birthday, Nathaniel Mbele, who was stabbed in the chest; Andile “Lulu” Ntuthela,  who was butchered and burned; Sphamandla Khoza, whose throat was slit, and Liyabona Mabishi, a 16-year-old lesbian stabbed for accidentally bumping into a man.

Other queer victims include Bonang Gaelae, Nonhlanhla Kunene, Khulekani Gomazi, Lucky Kleinboy Motshabi, Phelokazi Mqathana, Lindokuhle Mapu, and Aubrey Boshoga.

Activists have repeatedly demanded action, gathering online, massing at courts, police stations, and victims’ homes, yet the government continues to offer no concrete plan to tackle the crisis while the Hate Crimes Bill remains in limbo.

“Part of our demands listed in our memorandum to the Speaker of Parliament in April is to call out politicians, the government and the [South African police service] to firstly condemn these attacks,” Gwana told IOL.

“We are calling on parliament to hold an urgent debate centring on hate crimes and the realities of the LGBTQI+ community at large, and the police and Department of Justice to sensitise itself in dealing with crimes inflicted against queer bodies.”