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Feminism, Queer Politics, South Africa, violence against women

Eudy Simelane: Update – trial resumes Aug 26th

Friday 31 Aug; Delmas: The state today closed its case against the three men accused of robbing, raping and murdering lesbian soccer star Eudy Simelane in April 2008. Activists, still reeling from the shocking happenings on day one in which state witness Thato Mphiti recanted his previous testimony and took sole responsibility for the crime, gathered in large numbers at court once again.

The doctor who performed the post mortem on Simelane shortly after her death was the first witness to take the stand on Friday. Dr du Preez described for the court the wounds that had been sustained during the attack. He also went into some detail around the reasons for his assertion that a sexual assault had taken place. Judge Mokgoatlheng stated that despite full penetration not having occurred this still constituted rape. The doctor further stated that he did not believe the attack could have been undertaken by one person, as now stated by the convicted Mphiti, as Simelane was a strong woman who appeared to have fought back and must have been restrained while being stabbed.

Police Captain Jacob Zulu was the second witness of the day, he spoke to the forensic evidence in the case, particularly the trousers belonging to accused number three Themba Mvubu on which the deceased’s blood had been found. He testified that Mvubu himself had produced the trousers after being asked to hand over the clothes he “had been wearing when he murdered Eudy”. The judge while being very unhappy at the clothes for being asked for in such a way that could be admitting guilt of murder nonetheless admitted them into evidence as the attorney for accused number three had earlier indicated that her client acknowledged the trousers were his and had been voluntarily handed over. The court is yet to hear any explanation for how Simelane’s blood got on to the trousers given Mphiti’s new testimony that Mvubu had left the scene of the crime before the murder took place.

At this point Advocate Mudau closed the case for the state. Despite his case being severely rocked by the complete change in story from Thato Mphiti Adv Mudau managed to piece together a picture of the happenings on the night of the murder and his case against accused number three Mvubu remains strong. The case against the accused numbers one and two – Magagula and Mahlangu – seems however far less certain and as a consequence as soon as the state closed its case their lawyer put forward an application for their release. This being on the grounds that the state had not put made a case against the two to which they should have to answer. The state neither supported nor opposed this request leaving it instead to the discretion of the court. Judge Mokgoatlheng turned down the application pointing out that Mphiti’s testimony did still implicate them in conspiracy to commit robbery to which they would have to answer. It is questionable however how this charge will hold up being based largely on the evidence of the now discredited Mphiti. The case was postponed until August 26th at which time the defense attorneys will put their cases to the court.

There was a brief confrontation outside of court where the brother of one of the accused, who has repeatedly made threats to protesters at trial hearings was confronted by an angry group of protesters after once more threatening women while leaving the court. The protesters showed restraint while he was taken from the scene in a police vehicle.

Activists left Delmas with mixed feelings. There was an acknowledgement that the case had proceeded without further delays and that the state had put forward a case that they believed to be the strongest they could, there was also an understanding that Mphiti’s decision to change his story came as a surprise to everyone in the case and could not have been predicted. Questions still remain however around other things, the standard of medical examination, the lack of any questioning around motive and the ‘attempt penetration that cannot be pinned on any one of the accused. Activists will return to Delmas in August to once more demand justice for Eudy and an end to hate in our communities.

Act to End Hate

By Emily Craven (Coordinator; Joint Working Group)

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