Sexual violence: Political bickering insults our grief

Family and friends bid farewell to Duduzile Zozo at Kromvleiplaas cemetery. (Clarissa Sosin, M&G)

Family and friends bid farewell to Duduzile Zozo at Kromvleiplaas cemetery. (Clarissa Sosin, M&G)

A rainbow flag flew amid the dust earlier this month as Duduzile Zozo, beloved daughter and member of the lesbian community from Thokoza township, Johannesburg, was laid to rest at Kromvleiplaas cemetery.

She was found brutally murdered near the home of her mother, after a sexual assault believed to be a crime of hate against lesbians.

This crime is widespread in South Africa and is being used politically by vying political factions, as shown at Zozo’s funeral. Parties showed up at the pre-funeral memorial, bringing more chaos and questions.

Zozo’s body was found on June 30, with a toilet brush inside her vagina – a symbol, her grieving mother noted, of the hate for her sexual orientation. Such a violation strips Zozo of her dignity.

All the while, her family struggles with poverty and the inability to pay for the funeral. Compare this with the high life of so many politicians, including the president. And the ANC Women’s League, confusingly, shows up at a funeral to cadge for votes.

The politics here should be the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) politics of ending the scourge of hate crimes. Yet, at the funeral, said Phindi Malaza of the Forum for the Empowerment of Women, after prayers “the mood became very tense with clashes as to who was supposed to speak first between LGBTI groups and political parties, in particular ANC …”

It felt, said Malaza, as though “we were in a political rally, or maybe it’s because next year is the election … From the sidelines, it seemed like the ANC wanted to take over the whole event.”

All the LGBTI community asks, with each burial, is for an end to the violence, for education and outreach, for a focus by the police and the authorities to bringing perpetrators of these horrendous crimes to justice.

The suffering is unbearable. –

Melanie Nathan is a lawyer, ­mediator, equality activist and writer on LGBTI issues. See her blog:



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