26 July 2013
“I’m very hurt because I was not aware that her sexuality affected other people, while the family didn’t have a problem with her choices. She loved herself the way she was. I don’t know what it is that disgusted them when they looked at her.”
These are the words spoken by Thoziwe Zozo, a mother whose life has been torn apart by the senseless killing of her daughter, Duduzile Zozo.
Zozo, 55, cannot come to terms with the brutal way in which her daughter’s life was snuffed out at the age of 26. Duduzile is one of the latest victims of what has comet to be termed “corrective” rape. Her “sin”, in the eyes of her attacker(s), was being a lesbian.
Duduzile’s half-naked body was discovered at a house about 10 metres from her home in Thokoza, south-east of Johannesburg, late last month. She had been brutally raped and murdered.
‘How did her being a lesbian affect them?’
Time passes slowly for Thoziwe Zozo, despite the fact that she has other responsibilities, including caring for her four children and three grandchildren. The pain of knowing that the spot where her daughter was murdered is just down the street becomes too much. Not even the walls of the one-room corrugated iron house she shares with her family have enough steel to block out the memory.
Zozo thinks moving to a new area might help. “Maybe I would start healing then, but it’s not easy passing that spot on a daily basis,” she told SAnews on Thursday. “It always brings back bad memories for me.”
Even if she moves, she will carry her daughter in her heart, which is heavy with unanswered questions. Like anyone who has been in her shoes, all she wants to know is why.
“When they find the [murderers], I would like to ask them what is it that my daughter did to them, because I don’t understand why an outsider can be affected by her being a lesbian. Was she not good enough to walk in the streets?”
Zozo’s neighbour, Joyce Ngejani, who described Duduzile as a soft-spoken person, said the community was still in shock. Worse still was the fear that the perpetrators were still roaming the streets, free to continue raping and murdering innocent women.
“We were all shocked and hurt, no one believed it,” Ngejani said on Thursday. “Duduzile never got into a fight with anyone. She used to play soccer and walked with other boys on the street. We have confidence in government that one day the [killers] will be caught. But we fear that while they are still on the loose; more women could become victims.”
The right to choose
Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana paid a visit to the Zozo family on Thursday.
Xingwana told Zozo she felt her pain, and that the government would do all it could to ensure that justice was served. She added that her department would try to help the Zozos get a decent house where they could live with dignity and in safety.
Later on Thursday, Xingwana visited a local police station to check on the progress on Duduzile’s case. She also held a consultative meeting with the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.
Xingwana was hopeful that after her meeting with the police, there would be more community education about the rights of South Africans to express their sexual orientation, and the right to choice, which is enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.
“What’s important is that we need to educate our communities about these rights and Constitution and Bill of Right,” Xingwana said. “It is clear that women cannot be murdered in the community and harassed just because they are lesbians. People need to understand the right of association and right to choice. We need to step up this campaign.”
Xingwana could not say much about Duduzile’s case as the matter is sub judice.
“There have been a number of suspects that have been arrested so far, but the evidence did not link them to the killing. But we will ensure that those who are responsible get tough sentences.”