Article by Ayanda Msiza

Lesbian women fear for their safety as they face increased attacks, such as rape, death threats and psychological violence from a gang of men known as the 26s. SAPS is silent on this and prosecutor’s pass on these cases because they fear for their safety. Melissa Makau recently survived this ordeal.

Melissa Makau and her friend Koos were walking pass the graveyard in Toevlug, Ventersdorp, when a member of 26’s gang threatened her with a gun. He pointed the gun at her and told her friend to run and that he should not attempt to call the police or else his friend’s life will be in danger. The perpetrator took her to his backroom, where she was raped at gunpoint.

Two years ago Disebo Gift Makau a lesbian woman was raped and murdered by a member of 26’s gang. The perpetrator was sentenced to two life terms and 15 years in prison. This gang has terrorized Gift Makau’s mother and she was forced to flee her home. She is back and lives in constant fear.

Outside the Ventersdorp Magistrate Vourt. Photo by: Gugu Mandla

After the brutal rape Melissa’s perpetrator said, “Tell your other lesbian friends they are next. I know where they stay and I know their working hours.” Melissa’s perpetrator is known as a dangerous person in the community of Toevlug, Ventersdorp. He has committed several other sexual offences before.

The prosecutor assigned to this case has requested another prosecutor to handle this matter. He fears for his safety. Iranti is shocked to learn how the criminal justice system in the North West Province is fearful of this gang. How many women in Ventersdorp will be targeted?

Melissa deserves justice. The Bill of Rights sets to ensure rights of all people in South Africa and it calls for the right to freedom and security, including freedom from all violence by both public or private sources, and the right to bodily and psychological integrity.

The perpetrator was arrested the following day, on 18 August 2016, and will be appearing on 1 September 2016 for the third time at Ventersdorp Magistrate Court.

We call upon SAPS to thoroughly investigate the 26’s gang and to institute safety measures for women and the LGBTI community in Ventersdorp.