Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Khayelitsha police ‘incapable’ of helping LGBT residents

When prominent lesbian community activist Funeka Soldaat was raped "by some boys from Khayelitsha" in 1995, she turned to the police for help. 

Yet this week she told the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry into policing that her torment had continued at two police stations, where her treatment after the attack left her devastated.

Speaking in isiXhosa, Soldaat recalled how she first went for assistance to the Lingulethu West police station in Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats, where she was told by the police she would have to wait because there was no transport available to take her to the hospital. 

"After waiting for a while, two white gentlemen came into the station. I had been sitting there, and I had been raped. I was supposed to be taken to hospital," Soldaat told the commission.

"These gentlemen put me at the back of the van and took me to Site B hospital. They dropped me outside and I went in by myself. My shoes had been lost. A nurse told me I was supposed to have brought a letter from the police station saying I had been raped."

Barefoot, Soldaat walked from the hospital to the nearest police station – the Khayelitsha Site B police station.

"By the time it came for me to lay a complaint, a police officer looked at me from head to toe. He asked me what had happened. I told him I was raped. But what happened was he didn't take my statement and he went to talk to other police officers. They came and asked me what happened. It looked like they were considering my sexual orientation."

Soldaat said she could not take it any more, so she left. "I went home and slept after that," she said. "My life was now a disaster."

NGO founder
The 53-year-old activist gave her witness testimony dressed in a blue peak cap and a purple T-shirt promoting Free Gender, the organisation she founded.

Soldaat said she was eventually helped by Rape Crisis, who put her in touch with an investigating officer at the Site B police station and, once again, she reported the case.

"They took the case, but even when they were taking my statement I was not trusting what they were doing," she said.

Soldaat said she had little further contact with police officers involved in her case. She focused on her recovery. "Rape Crisis said the most important thing was healing," Soldaat explained to the commission.

Soldaat's account caught the police legal team unawares. Advocate Norman Arendse, who has been hired to represent the police, pointed out that Soldaat's testimony was not part of the affidavit she had handed to the commission. 

Arendse said, as a result, he was unable to respond to her personal account because he was not given warning to consult with his clients.

In her affidavit to the commission, Soldaat explained that Free Gender is a nongovernmental organisation based in Khayelitsha.

LGBT intolerance
"The organisation was established in Khayelitsha mainly because of the community's lack of understanding and its intolerance of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people," said Soldaat.

She said there is considerable ignorance about the various forms of sexuality and sexual identity.

"This often manifests in a generally bad attitude, poor relations and even anger towards the wider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community," said Soldaat.

"A section of the Khayelitsha community tends to unfairly treat LGBT people as social outcasts." She said they are often targeted for "so-called corrective rape, sexual assault, theft, robbery and many other crimes".

Soldaat said over many years it had become apparent that Khayelitsha police are incapable of providing help and protection to LGBT people, both before a crisis and when they present themselves as survivors of these crimes. "Khayelitsha police appear to lack the energy, will and intent to provide a service to LGBT [people]," Soldaat said. 

Police are slow to follow up on leads and are "homophobic", she said.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate..

Glynnis Underhill
Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country.

Related stories


Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

Denel money woes clip air force’s wings

A senior officer says the shortage of spares and and ability to service aircraft and vehicles has a negative effect on the SANDF’s operational ability

State fails at-risk children as R55m orphanage stands empty

Boikagong Centre in Mahikeng has been closed for almost two years because it did not meet safety requirements. The discarded children say they want a safe place to learn, but instead endure rape and other violence

Wildlife farming vs Creecy’s panel

The departments of environment and agriculture legislation are at odds over modifying the genes of wild animals

Drugs and alcohol abuse rage in crime stats

Substance abuse has emerged as a reason for the spike in crimes during the first quarter of 2021.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…