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Protest in front of the Sexual Offence Court

Millicent, whose rape on Friday was most likely motivated by hate, has been released from the hospital where she had to be taken Monday evening because of severe bleeding. She is doing well considering the circumstances. Her rapist is currently sitting behind bars. On Tuesday the Sexual Offences Court in the Wynberg district adjourned its first hearing until 13 April.

The approximately 50 women and a few men who were persevering outside in front of the courthouse for two hours were not terribly pleased by the news. But all the same, Andile Ngcuza had not been released from prison. The idea that it might happen gave everyone standing, calling, singing and dancing here the creeps. It isn’t unheard of.

Around 11am two police officers smuggled the assailant, caught in flagrante Saturday morning, unnoticed through a side entrance to the court.  Ngcuza was wearing the blue prisoner uniform and a head bandage. He limped.

The women showed up at 9:30am from Guguletu and Kayelitsha. Several of them are lesbians from the hardest hit neighbourhoods who have been fighting a long time against ‘corrective rape’. Many women from the proximity of the crime scene also came. Accompanying them out of the collective taxi come sadness, fear and anger. And increasing amounts of bitterness. Some of these women have long since given up hope of protection, so now they at least expect justice. And they know they have to take to the streets to get it.

“How many lesbians have to die before hate is a crime?” reads a white t-shirt. All of these women know another who has been a victim. Many can recite a list of names of the dead. Luleka Makwane. Nomsa Nosizwe Bizwa. Nomzamo Tshuluba. All came from Guguletu, a district of just a few tens of thousands of people.

In neighbouring Kayelitsha in 2006 a mob of 20 young men murdered the 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana because she was lesbian. Inasmuch as they can reconstruct the case, shortly beforehand a group of heterosexual girls out on the street had ridiculed her and a female friend as lesbians. The 20 men, none older than 20 years of age, threw stones and eventually beat Zoliswa to death with a golf club. This happened all just a few metres away from her home.

The case remained out of the public eye for a very long time. A reporter of the Mail & Guardian coincidentally heard about the story as he was researching a completely different topic. The police work was slipshod, journalists found the only witness. Four years later there still hasn’t been a verdict. This case is the one being heard before Millicent’s this morning. The prospects for justice are not good.

Or could they be better this time around? The local press has been on the story since it broke with front-page stories. A French television team is on location filming. There are pictures of the victim, the crime scene. And the World Cup starts in 69 days. Perhaps someone will pay attention.

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