Lesbian kidnapped in broad daylight after receiving death threats from own family

A 31-year-old lesbian from South African who was kidnapped in broad daylight is still missing after more than a month.

On 9 May, Refiloe Malope was approached by two man in Limpopo, South Africa, who claimed that they needed help fixing their car – but this turned out to be a ploy to kidnap Refiloe.

Witnesses told Times Live that Refiloe was forced into the boot of a white Toyota sedan that sped off. Malope’s brother David Malope told the Times Live that he was alerted to his sister’s abduction by neighbours.

“She was sitting in her van where she lives and the people asked to be jump-started,” he explained. “She said to them that she was also stuck and could not help them. When they left the house they met my sister, Tshepiso, coming into the yard.

“Tshepiso asked Refiloe if she knew them. She said they were related to her girlfriend, and she then left and went to the shop. Neighbours said on her way back from the shop, the people took her,” he said.

Following the horrific incident, one suspect has been arrested and the other is still on the run, according to human rights group Access Chapter 2, as per Mamba Online. Police have found the white sedan and inside they discovered bloodstains, but Refiloe has still not been found. The blood has been sent for DNA testing.

David told the Times Live that prior to Refiloe being kidnapped, she had received death threats from close family members, and she was told that “someone will die”.

Refiloe lived her life openly as a lesbian in her village of Kgaphamadi, outside Groblersdal, with her girlfriend. Refiloe’s family believe that family members connected to Refiloe’s girlfriend are responsible for the kidnapping, as per Times Live.

David said: “We don’t sleep. When the phone rings, we hope that they will tell us that she has been found. When a message comes in, I am always hoping that it’s about her. We need all the help we can get to get her home safe – any help.”

South Africa is still grappling with the an increase in LGBT+ hate crimes. (Credit GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images)

Provincial police commissioner lieutenant general Thembi Hadebe has a team working around the clock trying to find Refiloe.

Police spokesperson brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said: “The information at our disposal is that the victim was allegedly approached by one of the suspects under the pretext that he was looking for assistance as his vehicle [had broken down] in the village, and when the two arrived at the car the second suspect suddenly emerged and the two forcibly put the lady into the boot of the car.

“The motive is unknown at this stage and we appeal to anyone with information to contact Det-Sgt Amos Thekupi on 082-775-5462 or toll-free 08600-10111, or use the MySAPS app. Callers may opt to remain anonymous and any information received will be regarded as confidential.”

This is just the latest in a string of hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa, including the brutal mutilation of 27-year-old lesbian Nontokozo Caroline Motloung, who was targeted in a suspected homophobic attack in May.

Currently in South African law there is no concrete definition of hate crime, which leaves the LGBTQ+ community unprotected. The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill would change this but it has been delayed by parliament many times. The bill has been gathering dust since it was introduced in 2018.

According to Al-Jazeera, between February 2021 and April 2022, at least 20 South African LGBTQ+ individuals were murdered because of their sexual orientation.