STRANDS: The family of murdered lesbian Noxolo Xakeka, 23, said they were not happy with the eight-year sentence given to her killer, Bongile Joni.
Joni pleaded guilty to the murder of the young mother in the Strand Magistrate’s Court last week in Western Cape. Magistrate Franselien Mouton sentenced Joni to 12 years in prison, with four years suspended, effectively resulting in an eight-year sentence instead of the minimum of 15 years for murder.
Xakeka was stabbed by the 26-year-old man during New Year’s Day celebrations at a local shebeen close to her home.
Founder of Khayelitsha-based lesbian advocacy group Free Gender, Funeka Soldaat, who had been protesting in court against the bail of Joni along with the Triangle Project, said the accused provoked Xakeka by touching and teasing her. Joni had also made snide remarks about her sexuality, she said.
The prosecutor and Joni denied allegations that she was murdered because of her sexual orientation when he pleaded guilty to “the unlawfully murder of the deceased by stabbing her with a knife”.
“It was never the intention of the accused to murder the deceased because of her sexual orientation,” his lawyer said.
Soldaat said they believed it was a hate crime and felt Xakeka’s death was seen as a “joke”.
Triangle Project Health and Support Services manager Sharon Cox said: “The organisation is aware that there are always factors that are weighed before sentencing. Having said that, the deviation from the minimum sentence seems too light for having taken a life.
“About a third of that would be served. This means that the accused, in all probability, will only serve a two-and-a-half-year sentence, which seems completely ludicrous, unjust and inappropriate for a young life lost in that way.
The family too are disappointed and hurt by the outcome of the case.
“On the day of the murder, Triangle was informed by some that were present at the scene of the murder that a homophobic remark was made. The court placed great emphasis on the fact that she did this and injured the accused in the process.
“Having said that, the case was said not to be a hate crime. Triangle questions the premeditation of the crime when the accused went back home and returned with a knife.
“There have been other cases of hate perpetrated against lesbians in particular and none of these have ever reached court.
“We had hoped that this case was one that would send a message to communities that violence would not be tolerated.”
National Prosecuting Authority Western Cape spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “The girlfriend not only confirmed that the sentence was acceptable, but further confirmed that the incident was not motivated by sexual orientation by the accused.
“The girlfriend indicated to the prosecution that she is satisfied with the sentence and that (the) accused was seriously assaulted by the deceased prior to the murder.
“The prosecution only consulted with the girlfriend because no other entity approached our office, whether it be the Triangle Project, Strand community or the family.
“She was the only person who consulted with the prosecution. In light of all the mitigating factors, the State was of the opinion and the presiding officer agreed that the effective sentence was a balanced sentence.”