Activists are outraged at an outcome by the High Court in Durban, where a man walked free after being handed a 10-year suspended sentence for culpable homicide of a gay man.
Calling it an appalling miscarriage of justice, Nkosinathi Madlala was sentenced to community service and sent to anger management classes, after he admitted killing Sduduzo Buthelezi in 2017 by hitting him on the neck and then disposed of his body near a river in Chatsworth.
The 27-year-old is a graphic designer and Buthelezi was a client in 2017. The court was told that Buthelezi had offered him a lift home after working late. The two stopped for drinks, after which Madlala took the wheel of Buthelezi’s car. During the car ride, Buthelezi made advances.
“He started touching me and pulling me towards him. I reprimanded him and told him to stop. He continued. He was caressing my left thigh in an upward and downward motion. He was also touching my beard and caressing my neck. While doing this he was talking, asking me if we could become lovers,” Madlala said in a plea statement.
Madlala said that when Buthelezi laughed at him, he “felt embarrassed and humiliated by his actions and laughter”. He responded by striking “him once on the neck with my left hand”.
“After I struck him he sat still and remained quiet. I called out his name at least three times but he did not respond. I shook him for a while, but he did not respond,” he said.
Madlala then dumped the body and disposed of the car with the help of a friend.
“I admit that I ought to have foreseen the possibility of [Buthelezi] dying as a result of being hit in the neck,” Madlala’s statement read, pleading guilty to culpable homicide.
Judge Shyam Gyanda reportedly rejected the state’s recommendation that the killer be jailed for at least a short time, stating that as a first time offender, if Madlala were to go to prison, it would only “expose you to further criminality”.
Judge Gyanda handed him the suspended sentence, and also sentenced him to anger management classes and 40 hours of community service a month for three years.
“The leniency of the sentence is discouraging to efforts to bring justice to the LGBTIQA+ community,” said Moude Maodi-Swartz, paralegal officer at OUT LGBT Well-being.
“The sentencing concretises the general feeling that the justice system has failed the community by not promoting their protection and right to justice”.
Maodi-Swartz warned that it could endorse “regressive patterns in the fight for justice for LGBTIQA+ people in South Africa”.
She added that any use of a “gay panic defense” would only “encourage homophobia and transphobia and stigmatise the community further”.