DURBAN - THE family of a slain young woman of KwaMakhutha, Anele Bhengu, has revealed that the release on bail of the accused has instilled fear in them.
Murder accused Thulani Nandos Cele was granted R2 000 bail by the Umbumbulu Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Bhengu, 22, who was a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community, was raped and stabbed to death on June, 19, 2021, while she was visiting an old friend in the area.
Her throat and abdomen were slit which resulted in it being viewed as a hate crime. It is alleged that she had left her friend’s house to use the toilet outside but did not return.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Kara said Cele’s matter was postponed to October 12 for further investigation. Bhengu’s body was discovered with multiple stab wounds near her home in June.
Nontokozo Bhengu, Bhengu’s aunt, said this has opened old wounds as they were still coming to terms with their loss.
“We are so scared of our lives. This person has been in jail for a while and that brought so much relief to us. But now that he is out, who knows what revenge he could be planning,” she said.
Nontokozo, who lives with Bhengu’s elder sister Busi and young children, said being the only women left in the family worsened their fears.
“When their mother died, Busi raised Anele as her own. Unfortunately, we no longer have men in the family which makes us feel more unsafe. This is not only a danger to us but to every woman and child out there. We had hoped that he was going to be locked up in jail. The system has really failed us,” said Nontokozo.
The director of the KwaZulu-Natal LGBTQ+ group, Hlengiwe Buthelezi, said they were extremely disappointed about the court’s decision.
“This has automatically taken us back to the extreme fear of such hate crimes. The suspect had agreed to every charge he was up against in Anele’s case. He then took police to where he had hidden the murder weapon and his clothes. This proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty. Yet, now he is out and roaming the streets,” said Buthelezi.
Buthelezi said this was proof of the lack of concern that the judiciary system had for the LGBTQ+ community.
“It goes without saying that our system doesn’t care enough about us but the perpetrators. On what grounds was he released while he has over 10 more cases of similar crimes?
“Was Anele’s life worth that? What about the witnesses who testified against him in court? Are they safe? And the family? Should we all die of fear asking ourselves if we are next? This county has failed us; we are on our own,” she said.
Kara said, Cele recently re-applied after he had previously abandoned his application for bail.
“He was granted bail with conditions that he relocates his home and does not interfere with witnesses.”