Themba Mvubu, 24, from Kwathema, was found guilty of murder, robbery and being an accessory to the rape. He continued to show no remorse and left the court muttering “I’m not sorry”. Possibly after a few years in jail he might at some point reconsider this statement. In summing up the case the judge only managed to concede that her fame as a footballer may have contributed to her rape and murder – but still failed to acknowledge her rape and murder as hate crimes.
It’s a relief for everyone — family and friends of Eudy to have finally received justice. The campaign around Eudy’s case has been central to raising awarness of hate crimes against lesbians in South Africa and for that we must acknowledge the work of The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and it’s director, Phumi Mtetwa who worked tirelessly to make sure the case was given the highest possible profile. Recognition must also go to all the friends and supporters who attended the court hearings despite the lack of funds to transport and accommodate them during the endless postponements and delays. I wonder whether people reading about the case realise how difficult and what a strain it has been for everyone involved to keep up the pressure. The battle for this one case, to get justice for Eudy Simelane, has been one but the struggle against hate crimes and for justice in a climate of increased lesbiaphobia and homophobia is only just beginning.
Updates from Phumi to follow.
Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
The long awaited judgment in the murder trial of lesbian activists and former Banyana Banyana player Eudy Simelane was concluded today in Delmas. Khumbulane Magagula, Johannes Mahlangu and Themba Mvubu faced the charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, rape and murder Simelane. Thato Mphiti was convicted of the same crimes in February 2009 for the same crimes to 32 years imprisonment.
Judge Ratha Mokgoathleng acquitted Magagula and Mahlangu based on three State witnesses who testified that the two were there but “did nothing” to Simelane. The Judge said there was no evidence before the court that warrant him to convict them of any of the four charges they face.
Judge Mokgoathleng found Mvubu guilty of murder, rape and accomplice to rape. In an interesting judgement, the Judge confessed that the hardest question he faced was whether Mphiti was telling the truth when he took the witness stand. In his analysis and conviction of Mvubu he said if Mpithi was chasing after one of Simelane’s friend, Mvubu must have been holding her to prevent her getting away.
Recalling on evidence given, Judge Mokgoathleng said Mvubu had instructed Mpithi to kill her because he knows her and “she knows who I am”, an intension to ‘conceal evidence’. The Judge said Simelane was a well known athlete and soccer player.
Judge Mokgoathleng sentenced Mvubu with life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and 20 years for being an accomplice to what he said to be gang rape.
Whilst this sentence was welcomed by family, community members and most activists, the acquittal of Magagula and Mahlangu was seen as disappointing. In a post trial celebration in Kwa-Thema, activists said at least they should have been charged for doing nothing to save Simelane’s life.
The Lesbian and Gay Equality Project expressed relief at the conclusion of the trial, thanked everyone who has supported the mobilisations and campaign to ensure justice and called on all to support the long journey to ensure an egalitarian society.