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Gay South African man slain in apparent hate crime

June 13, 2012 | 10:58 am

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A 23-year-old black South African was killed last week in an apparent hate crime after getting into an argument about his sexuality, according to South African reports.

Thapelo Makutle, who lived an openly gay and transgender life in Kuruman township in the Northern Cape province, was found Friday with his throat cut in the room where he lived, according to reports.

Shaine Griqua, director of Legbo Northern Cape, a lobby group for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, said in a phone interview that the group was trying to clarify details of the crime after initial reports incorrectly said the man was beheaded.

Makutle was a volunteer with Legbo Northern Cape and worked in a furniture shop.

According to the reports, witnesses said two heterosexual men accosted Makutle about his sexual orientation and appearance. Some reports cited the witnesses as saying the men followed him home, but those reports couldn't be confirmed.

One of Makutle's friends, Mosiama Boyang, 23, was at a nightclub with Makutle the night of the slaying. He said in a phone interview that Makutle left about 1 a.m. and planned to walk home.

Murders, beatings and rapes of LGBT people in South Africa are frequent and force some to live underground and hide their identities, but Makutle was open and proud of who he was, according to his friend.

"He was very active and outspoken," said Boyang. "He would shop. He loved clothing. He was very fashionable kind of person. He was fun-loving and outgoing and that's what he loved to do, socialize with other people."

He said Makutle was survived by two brothers and his mother. He told them he was gay about seven years ago, according to Boyang.

"It was not an issue for the family," he said. "They accepted him because they knew him."

Boyang said Makutle recently attended a Miss Gay Kuruman pageant, but that he didn't enter the pageant, as some media reports have suggested.

South Africa guarantees the rights of LGBT people, though hate crimes are not uncommon. A lesbian in the Northern Province was recently stabbed in a bar, according the Legbo Northern Cape.

Traditionalists, led by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, are campaigning to have the equal rights clause for LGBT people removed from the constitution.

Harassment of LGBT people occurs in many countries in Africa, and homosexuality is illegal in many nations. In Uganda, legislator David Bahati pressed for a measure to impose in the death penalty for homosexuality, but the bill was shelved following a storm of international criticism. He reintroduced the bill, which dropped the capital punishment clause but increased the penalties for homosexuality, in February to applause from fellow legislators.

In October 2010, a Ugandan newspaper published a list of dozens of gay people with photographs, under the heading "Hang Them."  Ugandan gay activist David Kato, among those who picture was published, was slain with a hammer several months later.

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--Robyn Dixon

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