You would be forgiven for thinking there was a movie shoot happening outside the Khayelitsha Megistrate's Court today. The place was crawling with journalist, photographers, protestors from the community and NGO's mainly the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Socail Justice Coalision (SJC), Free Gender and Triangle Project, camera men and media vans all parked outside, eagerly awaiting the sentencing of the four men accused of murdering the 19 year old Zoliswa Nonkonyana more then five years ago.
The accused Mbulelo Damba, Sicelo Mase, Luyanda Lunzi and lubabalo were each sentenced to 18 years in prison for the murder of Zoliswa Nonkoyana who was living openly as a lesbain in Khayelitsha. As the megistrate handed her judgement she explained that she took into consideration the following issues.
- The anger demonstrated by the community members at the deliberate murder of the victim for living openly as a lesbain.
- The motive behind the murder was because of her sexaul orientation.
- She also took into consederation the support given to the accused by their family members signalising that they were still very much loved by their family
- She also noted the accused age's at the time of their arrest, stating that two were under 16 and two were just 17 years of age, she also stated that she would sentence them according to the ages they were at the time of their arrest.
- She also mentioned the fact that under the amended Child Protection Act (2008) charges such as this one aren't covered.
- And the fact that the accused never showed any remourse during the court case.
After taking all of this into consideration she then handed over the sentence, as she gave her sentencing the court went dead quite, you could hear a pin drop. And as they heard their sentences you could see the shock on the accused faces, as the crowd cheered at the announcement of the sentencing finally putting an end to the five year struggle in getting justice for Zoliswa's family.
The clearly distraught mother of Zoliswa could not handle the pressure of the media as they all swarmed her to be the first to get her statement. Lumkile Sizila had to shield her away from the media but Zoliswa's step dad was willing to give a statement. The 45 year old Cinumzi Mandidi expressed his joy as he explained to the media "all we wanted was for justice to be served and today it has been served."
TAC participated in a public imbizo at Ikamva Lethu on Dec 6 at 11am to discuss the community’s feedback about the proposed National Health Insurance.
Several representatives spoke about the plan. Mr. Mbele, a representative from COSATU, spoke about the workers’ perspective on the proposed NHI plan. He said that the union supports the NHI system because it promotes solidarity among all South African citizens. “Since it is those who are employed who will contribute to the NHI, the workers stand to benefit as well as contribute to the NHI”, he said.
“This NHI will open doors for everyone who can’t afford a better medical treatment right now”. Mr. Mbele also noted that COSATU will rely on community members to be the whistler blowers once the NHI is implemented, to share their experiences if the NHI does not conform to the guidelines that they promised. “The NHI relies on the community to make the NHI system work”, he concluded.
Sister Mpumi, who works at the Ubuntu clinic and is also a TAC activist, spoke on behalf of the nurses. She said that they also welcome and support the NHI system, which will make a huge difference in accessing better health care services for everyone. She noted that currently the public sector (which is the first point of contact for many people) is being inadequately considered by government. Nurses’ salaries are not adequate and this does not motivate people to give better health care. She said that most of the staff in the public sectors are overworked, overburdened and underpaid.
She further mentioned that in South Africa, only a few people have medical aid. She highlighted a personal example: “If we were all to be in an accident, my medical aid scheme would fly me away to a better clinic and leave everyone else at the accident scene. The NHI pledges solidarity for all South Africans, and those who work will pay for those who don’t”.
Marking the first day of this campaign, on November 25, activists from TAC, Social Justice Coalition and Triangle Project participated in a protest march through Ndlovini informal settlement to raise awareness about gender-based violence in this community. Residents watched and in some cases, joined in with the march through the main streets and up to the main football pitch. Activists from Social Justice Coalition and TAC spoke about the need to agitate against the everyday violence that occurs in the streets and homes of residents. Part of the march took activists past the nearly graves of two young girls, marked only by a small bouquet of flowers in one case, and police tape in the other. Residents were encouraged to speak out against violence and seek help from social workers and police to prosecute offenders.
On Thursday Dec 1, we commemorated World AIDS Day with numerous events held around Khayelitsha and throughout Cape Town. First we participated in the unveiling of a plaque at the Ubuntu Clinic to commemorate the ten years of pioneering work this clinic has done for integrated TB and HIV treatment. A bronze plaque now rests proudly outside the main entrance, reminding all who enter of the hard work and dedication that brought such high standards of care to Khayelitsha. One of those involved in the unveiling announced, “This is the pride of Khayelitsha, this is the result of sweating, of perseverance – we have this treatment available here”. They warned the audience about the challenges ahead and urged them to push on. “Don’t give up, we are behind you, even if it’s an uphill battle”.
Next, a large group of TAC activists caught a bus into Cape Town, in order to attend the World AIDS Day commemoration at Parliament. It was a lively event, with speeches by civil society and government members, singing by Princilla Babu and a group of peer educators, candle lighting, and testimonials by activists.
Finally, we headed back to Khayelitsha for the event at Oliver Tambo Hall in Site C. There, a crowd of thousands watched in delight at the spectacle of the Zip Zap Circus, a group who teaches ground-based circus skills to children living with HIV and receiving ARV treatment. It is always a highlight of every World AIDS Day and this year was no exception. Other musical acts complemented the event.
All in all, it was a wonderful day, filled with pride for what has been accomplished to date to prevent and treat HIV infections, along with energy and enthusiasm for the work that still remains.
Chairpersons for all branches, branch members, treatment literacy advocates and community health workers all gathered at the TAC Khayelitsha office on Friday, October 28 in order to hold a consultation about the Government of South Africa’s ‘Green Paper’ on National Health Insurance (NHI). The group was presented with the details of the Green Paper, and discussed possible challenges that might arise in its implementation. Some TAC members were particularly skeptical about the NHI implementation because it placed a heavy burden on the capacity of the public health care system. Others worried that the implementation of the NHI would mean many doctors, nurses and other health personnel would leave the country due to lost revenues. Other TAC members expressed doubts that the government would be able to manage such a large influx of money into the National Health Insurance Fund without corruption. All in all, TAC members were excited about the opportunity presented by the NHI to revolutionize health care in South Africa, while remaining cautious about the specifics. Everyone agreed that the next iteration of the NHI would have to be more explicit about what services were covered by the ‘comprehensive package’ in the NHI. Services for PLWHA are, of course, a top priority.
Further consultations about the NHI are planned for the coming weeks.
What was suppose to be the sentencing of the four men accused of killing Zoliswa Nonkonyana and finally putting an end to this case was again postponed today. The magistrate said they are awaiting a report from the prison of the counseling sessions the men underwent while in prison. Since most of them were minors at the time of the arrest, the state needs to take this into consideration before they make their decision. On the 21 November this report will be heard at the Khayelitsha magistrate court.
While the decision on Friday to convict four of the nine men accused of the 2006 beating and stabbing to death 19-year-old Zoliswa Nonkonyana has been welcomed by some and criticized by others. Those in favour have pointed out that at least some measure of justice has been granted to the victim’s family. Others say that the acquittal of the five others denies the fact that this was a crime perpetrated by a crowd and enabled by the non-intervention of many others who witnessed this horrific murder and chose to do nothing.
Regardless of how one feels after Friday’s verdict, this much is true: the cost of securing this measure of justice has been high. For close to five years, members of civil society groups have doggedly pursued the proceedings, exerting pressure on the justice system to deliver a fair, transparent trial. It is doubtful that the case would have received such attention and been brought to this conclusion without this constant, determined pressure. The record of unpunished rapes and murders in Khayelitsha speaks to the typical outcome of such crimes.
The cost of this justice comes in the form of the time, energy and financial outlay required to mobilize activists to attend court proceedings. The price to hire a taxi to take protesters to the Magistrate’s Court. To go from Khayelitsha to Cape Town and back is. The time and energy to organize protests takes NGOs away from their core work and diverts scarce funding. Consider that the case was postponed for more than 43 times, and that civil society groups gathered outside the courthouse for each and every postponement, and one begins to understand the cost of this verdict.
The Zoliswa Nkonyana Murder Trial Set To Conclude After Five Years: Closing arguments were heard by the magistrate from the State Prosecutor and the defense attorneys last week Friday on 9 September 2011. The court was full to capacity and there was strict monitoring by the police on who accessed the court room number 7 at the Khayelitsha Magistrate court. but that didn't deter our comrades for making sure that their voices were being heard even inside the court. The application to dismiss the charges against the remaining 7 accused was denied by the magistrate The 5 year long trial of 9 men alleged to have murdered the 19 year old lesbian woman saw two of the nine men accused of murdering Zoliswa being acquitted by the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court Cape Town, on Wednesday, 07 September 2011.
The Magistrate has further ruled that she will hear concluding arguments by the State and the defense on Friday, 09 September and deliver her judgment on 07 October 2011 in the Khayelitsha Regional Court.
From the closing arguments what came through was the lack of police work done in investigating this case and the SAPS was not able to provide crucial evidence that could prove beyond a reasonable doubt who is responsible for Zoliswa Nkonyana's death. It has also illustrated how the South African Police Services are failing to protect society's most vulnerable, as well as thorough investigation and evidence-gathering that will hold up in the court of law.
The Treatment Action Campaign, together with all partners and fellow-human rights defenders will be there on the final judgment day, we are extending an invitation to anyone else that can join us on the day and be visible at the Khayelitsha Magistrate Court on 07 October 2011
The strike action currently taking place is disrupting access to treatment in a big way. 3 clinics in total have officially closed their doors in Khayelitsha and staff have been told to commence to work next week Tuesday. Our Treatment Literacy Practitioner Nomfusi was chased out of the clinic while in the middle of her education. Protesters stormed inside the clinic and orders people to get out, threatening them with sticks and shamboks.
They then proceeding causing damage inside the clinic throwing contents inside the mobile toilets situated outside the clinic on the floor and emptying out rubbish from the bins, they left the Town Two clinic in a messy state. Heavy police presence had to remain outside the clinic while the mess created by the protesters was cleaned with a huge hosepipe.
"It's a shame because most of the people in the clinic today were new cases that are in desperate need of medication" said Nomfusi. She further explained that she had distributed all of her medication particularly (lamzid and nevirapine) to the patients that were afraid of defaulting. At the moment people are being refered to other clinics such as Ubuntu clinic for medication to sustain them until next week.
Mr Geldenheis : The investigation officer took the stand on the 17 August 2011 where he was cross questioned by the prosecutor and the four defence attorney. On how he conducted his investigation that led to the arrest of the 9 accused.
Geldenheis explained how he received a call on the 02 February 2006 while he was at his home, and was informed of a possible murder that took place at E section in Khayelitsha around 23h25 at night. He then proceeded to the scene where he was the first person to arrive at the scene. When he got there, there was nothing much to do, because it was dark and the ambulance had already taken the victim to Day hospital. He then went to Day hospital, and there he met the victim’s father, who informed him that his daughter died on the way to hospital.
At the time he had no suspects, the following day he went back to the crime scene with Captain Newman, they then drove to the fathers’ house for further questioning and asked the father to point out to them where exactly did he pick up his daughter from, there was blood on the pavement and stones lying around together with two concrete bricks about 60cm next to the crime scene. He took pictures and asked neighbours questions but they didn’t give any evidence.
On the 7th February 2006 the post mortem results came back stating that the victim had 7 stab wounds in front of her body, there was a tear on the left side of the head, at this stage on of the accused mother let out a sigh. Mr Geldenheis was asked at this stage if he could tell if the victim was female or male, he answered yes, and it was a girl.
When asked about how he got to make the 9 arrest he explained that he read on the Cape Argus that the deceased was with someone, that’s when he discovered Lorna Cungatha, who was at the scene that day. She gave the names of everyone that was on the scene and was involved, she also pointed out where they lived. She also pointed out the exact location of where the incident happened and it was the same place where the father pointed out as well, Zingisa Street, E section. S he further explained that she knew where they lived because she was friends with them.
Accused no 1 was then arrested at his home on 4/02/2006 with his father present, his school bag was searched and a silver knife was found in it. Accused 1 explained that he used the knife for protection and to cut food. Accused 7,8 were arrested while trying to flee from the police on 4/02/2006 at 11h16. Accused 1-6 were arrested from their houses, accused no 4 handed himself over and accused 7,8 and 9 were arrested later on. The results from the knife came back empty, no blood samples were found on the knife.
Lorna had to be placed under witness protection when he was threatened by someone at school.
Defence attorney 1 Cross questioned him around the issue of the knife. He was asked after her found the knife what did he do with it? He explained that he kept the knife in a safe, he was asked why is it that he only booked the evidence a month later, he explained that it was due to the fact that he was not based in Site B at the time, where the safe was and it had to wait for a time when he had time to go there and book it in. He was also questioned about why he visited the scene everytime he had a witness, he answered that he needed to make sure if they all pointed out the same place. The case was postponed for19 August 2011
TAC celebrated Nelson Mandela Day by attending a cleanup campaign an initiative organised by our local counsellor Monde Nqulwana, COSATU General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was also there. We started off the day by dressing up for the occasion in our brown oversized overalls, gumboots, heavy duty gloves and a mask we set out to clean ward 89.
Standing there our General Secretary, Vuyiseka Dubula and Lumkile Sizile looked like they were ready to do the gumboot dance, myself included. We parked our cars and hopped onto the back of the truck with about 30 other comrades singing revolutionary songs we headed off to ward 89. As we got closer the odour got intense and that’s when the trouble started. Equipped with rakes and spades what was waiting for us on the other side needed more than rakes ad spades.
A small tractor was also offloaded from the truck and it accompanied us to the scene, waiting for us was an infested swamp surrounded by houses and the smell was unbearable. We had to get inside the infested water and rake the dirt out. Counsellor Monde led the way and the brave followed amongst them was our very own Vuyiseka and she pulled and shovelled the dirt out. After the media interviews were done by Vavi he had to get down and dirty. And so the dirt was collected in blue bags and transported out of the scene he even dug out some rats from the whole.
But without a proper drainage and sanitation system that area will not get any better unless a permanent solution is derived because as we were cleaning some residents were emptying out their leftovers into the swamp. The whole cleanup campaign lasted for about 6 hours.