Evidence for Sentencing In the Zoliswa Nkonyana Murder Trial

Press Statement by the Triangle Project

On the 4th February this year, six years would have passed since Zoliswa Nkonyana was murdered because she lived openly as a lesbian.  Today, at Khayelitsha Magistrates Court, the State presented its evidence for sentencing in the murder trial.  Representatives from Triangle Project and Free Gender took the stand.

Triangle Project stated that that one of the major reasons why crimes of violence based on hate and discrimination are taken very seriously within the Criminal Justice System of other countries, is not so much because of the frequency with which these crimes occur, but because of the severe and wide-ranging impact of such violence on communities and society as a whole.   Crimes such as the murder of Zoliswa “terrorise the collective by victimising the individual”.   The murder of Zoliswa represents the most blatant way to communicate to lesbians that we are less than human and that our lives are expendable.  Triangle Project emphasised that these community and societal effects would be reinforced without stern and decisive action from the Court and made the following recommendations:

1.       That the sentencing reflects the extremely brutal nature of this crime; and

2.       That discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender is considered and explicitly named  as an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Funeka Soldaat of Free Gender testified that Zoliswa never had the opportunity to fulfil her dreams and talked about the impact that Zoliswa’s murder had on Zoliswa’s mother and the lesbian community in Khayelitsha.  She also spoke about the harassment faced by activists outside the court during trial proceedings.  She asked that the Court impose a stern sentence.

The prosecutor presented a thorough and balanced argument.  While taking into account the fact that the 4 men convicted of the murder were juveniles at the time of the murder, she also described their actions as a “group murder governed by hate” and drew on the South African Constitution to argue that the right to life, dignity and equality was paramount.  She called for long–term imprisonment of not less than 15 years, given the brutal nature of the crime, the underlying motive of discrimination based on sexual orientation and the fact that none of the convicted men have ever taken any responsibility or demonstrated remorse the crime.

The Magistrate will now consider all arguments and sentencing will be delivered on Wednesday, the 1st February 2012.

Responses and questions can be directed to:

Jill Henderson, Research & Advocacy Programme Co-ordinator – Triangle Project,

E-mail:, Tel: 021 4483812


Jayne Arnott , Director – Triangle Project,  E-mail: , Tel: 021 4483812


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