A man was jailed for life on Tuesday for the murder and gang rape of Eudy Simelane, a lesbian South African international footballer.
Themba Mvubu (24) from KwaThema, was found guilty of murdering, robbing and being an accessory to the rape of 31-year-old Eudy Simelane.
Activists at the magistrate’s court in Delmas, Mpumalanga, hailed the judgement as “extremely important” in drawing attention to cases of murder and so-called “corrective rape” against lesbians in South Africa.
Simelane was one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in KwaThema township, near Johannesburg. A keen footballer since childhood, she played for the South African women’s team and worked as a coach and referee. She hoped to serve as a line official in the Soccer World Cup in South Africa.
But in April last year she was accosted while leaving a pub and robbed of her cellphone, trainers and cash. She died from wounds to the abdomen after being gang-raped and stabbed 12 times. Her naked body was dragged towards a stream and dumped.
“Eudy Simelane suffered a brutal, undignified death,” Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng told the court, where the victim’s parents sat with heads bowed. “She was stripped naked, stabbed, assaulted, raped. What more indignity can a person endure?”
He continued: “The accused has shown no remorse whatsoever. He steadfastly maintains he was not to blame for the death of the deceased. That is his right. It’s painful to send a young person to jail, but if the young person behaves like an adult with criminal conduct, he cannot expect to hide behind his youthfulness.”
Mvubu, wearing a hooped brown and cream sweater, sat looking at the floor with hands behind his back for much of the hearing. Questioned by reporters, he muttered “I’m not sorry” as he was led from the dock to jeers from the public gallery.
He was the second man convicted of the crime. Earlier this year Thato Mphithi pleaded guilty to murder, robbery and being an accomplice to the attempt to commit rape. He was imprisoned for a total of 32 years.
Two more men, Khumbulani Magagula (22) and 18-year-old Johannes Mahlangu were acquitted today of their alleged part in the attack. “God will be their judge,” said Judge Mokgoathleng.
The most likely motive for the attack was that Simelane and her killers were known to each other, the judge added. “I’m told she was a famous athlete,” he said. “It was an attempt to obliterate the evidence.”
At an early stage the court ruled out Simelane’s sexual orientation as a motive in her killing. But lesbian political activists have regularly attended the hearings and welcomed the way it has raised awareness of their cause.
Phumi Mtetwa, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, said: “This judgement is extremely important. It doesn’t state that she was killed as a lesbian but because she was known.
“How did people know her in the township? She was a soccer player who was ‘butch’ and was known. People are killed because of who they are.”
Simelane’s mother, Mally (65) said: “I’m happy. I’m released. My life will come right again.” – guardian.co.uk