Respect Gay Rights, Judge Tells Killer

Shain Germaner
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The horrific slaying of Thokoza resident Duduzile Zozo in September last year caused a public outcry when she was discovered in a yard in the township, a toilet brush sticking out of her lifeless body.

Johannesburg – Activists have called it a “transformative” sentencing.

On Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma launched the 16 Days of Activism campaign in Reiger Park, his rhetoric calling for support in the fight against woman and child abuse.

But 20km away, Judge Tshifiwa Maumela was making a tangible difference, acknowledging the hate-crime problem in South Africa and sentencing a man responsible for killing a young lesbian to an effective 30 years in prison.

The horrific slaying of Thokoza resident Duduzile Zozo in September last year caused a public outcry when she was discovered in a yard in the township, a toilet brush sticking out of her lifeless body.

Lekgoa Motleleng pleaded guilty on Tuesday to Zozo’s rape and murder in the High Court sitting in Palm Ridge after reaching a plea agreement with the State.

In his ruling, Judge Maumela said he wanted to make a difference to all vulnerable groups of society “in (his) own small way”.

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Lekgoa Motleleng was jailed for 30 years. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng

“No one has been given the right to correct alcoholics. No one has been given the right to correct those who take too much salt or sugar. No one has been given the right to correct others when it comes to the right to love their own gender… You can’t interfere with how someone chooses to live,” he told Motleleng.

Judge Maumela said a harsh sentence for the 23-year-old would serve as a warning to those who threatened the vulnerable. He said he hoped it would make these difficult lives easier.

Judge Maumela told Motleleng to reconsider his attitude towards homosexual people while he served his sentence.

“Lead your life and let gays and lesbians be.”

Prosecutor Mahlubi Ntlakaza said the case had sent a shock wave through the gay community.

In the plea agreement, Ntlakaza wrote that the accused had “transgressed not only the right to life, but also (Zozo’s) rights to human dignity, equality and freedom”.

A reduced media presence witnessed these statements – the once-huge number of journalists who initially attended the proceedings having dwindled to only two.

The more than 50 activists who gathered outside the court on Tuesday seemed happy with Maumela’s acknowledgement of the plight of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual and intersexed) community.

Dikeledi Sibanda of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women said that in all the court cases she had attended over the years, this was one of the few that acknowledged the problem of society’s attitudes towards homosexuals.

However, while the judgment was considered a step forward in terms of human rights law by the group, the occasion was marred by two steps back.

Sibanda and another activist, Nandi Msezane, said the translator had described lesbians as “women who wanted to be men” in Sesotho – a “ridiculous misconception”.

Msezane also complained that they were manhandled by armed police officers as they chanted outside the court house.

It proved too much for Zozo’s mother, Thuziwe, to listen to the graphic confession of how her daughter had been killed and mutilated.

Dabbing her eyes throughout proceedings, Thuziwe ran from the courtroom after hearing how Lekgoa Motleleng had forcibly kissed her daughter.

In his plea agreement, Motleleng said he had killed Zozo because she had rejected his sexual advances and had threatened to “tell on him” after he had forcibly kissed her.

According to Motleleng’s confession, he and Zozo were walking home from a tavern in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni, in the early hours.

The pair shared mutual acquaintances, and Motleleng’s cousin and Zozo’s brother were good friends.

Though Motleleng admitted he knew Zozo was a lesbian, he – in his own words – “proposed love” to the young woman. Zozo told him they should talk about it the next day, but he refused to back off.

When Motleleng forcibly kissed her, she tried to kick and scratch him.

Motleleng dragged her into the yard of a nearby house and tripped her. She threatened to tell her brother about what she believed Motleleng was planning to do.

It sent the then 22-year-old into a rage. He grabbed Zozo by the neck and squeezed the air from her lungs.

When she “lost power”, Motleleng let go. Zozo was still alive but silent when Motleleng walked to the outdoor lavatory and grabbed a toilet brush.

Motleleng said he pushed the handle into Zozo’s vagina to determine if she was alive, but the brush slid into the young woman.

He then strangled her.