As the murder case of David Olyn continues in Ceres, activists ask if police are responding properly to LGBTI crimes

Sonke Gender Justice, the Witzenburg Rural Development Centre, other civil society organisations, and the gay and lesbian community in Ceres will once again make themselves seen and heard outside the Ceres Magistrate Court this Thursday, October 16, 2014 when the case of David Olyn, who was brutally raped and murdered on the 22nd March 2014, will be called following numerous postponements due to an incomplete investigation on the part of local police. Since March the activists have been maintaining a visible presence each time this case has come to court to show support and solidarity for the Olyn family, and also to put pressure on police, government and judicial authorities to properly prosecute crimes against LGBT people in the area.

For several months, the Olyn family, the accused Christo Oncker, and the wider community have been unsure whether the case would proceed to trial or would be dropped due to significant failure on the part of the South African Police Services (SAPS) to collect evidence expediently and to prioritise Olyn’s murder case.

“We are concerned about the police’s weak response to crimes against LGBTI people in Ceres,” says Lucinda van den Heever, Sonke’s Specialist on LGTBI rights, “The police have repeatedly failed to make arrests and collect sufficient evidence around other LGBTI murders there. At least one recent LGBTI murder case did not even make it to court. The police and prosecutors in Ceres need to be reminded of Section 9 of South Africa’s Constitution which states that everyone has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.”

The Ceres community, with support from Sonke Gender Justice and the Witzenburg Rural Development Centre, have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction over poor police responses to crime and ineffective service delivery since Olyn was murdered, demanding that more be done to prevent gender-based violence and LGBTI hate-crimes.

“While the motive for David’s murder is still to be discovered by the courts, the fact is that David was an openly gay man and he was raped before he was murdered,” says van den Heever, “When the police fail to properly respond to crimes like these, they feed into homophobia and the vulnerable situation that many LGBTI persons in South Africa find themselves in.”

Sonke and our partners have conducted numerous trainings and workshops in Ceres since Olyn’s murder to build awareness and solidarity around LGBTI issues and citizens. Van den Heever says that activists and LGBTI organisations have been reporting numerous hate crimes against LGBTI persons across South Africa over the last few years, including recently the brutal rape and murder of a young lesbian woman, Gift Makau, in Ventersdorp, and the murder of Duduzile Zozo, a young lesbian woman in Erkurheleni, Johannesburg.

No South African, whether a woman, a gay person, a child, or someone living in poverty should live in fear or should feel like the police will not protect them or represent justice where they live. Van den Heever says that the police have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all people and to properly investigate cases so that justice can be served and perpetrators of gender-based violence are held to account by the police and the courts.

Sonke strongly condemns homophobic attitudes of both citizens and police, and notes that such attitudes are a strong contributor to violence against LGBTI people in South Africa. We repeat previous urgent calls for the South African government to implement a national strategic plan to combat gender-based violence that will seek to both prevent violence and improve the response of the courts and the police.

We hope that the case of David Olyn’s murder will not be further delayed and that on Thursday the police will announce that their investigation is complete, and that the trial may finally begin.

Media Contacts

  • Lucinda van den Heever – Sonke Gender Justice –
  • Naomi Thomas – Witzenburg Rural Development Centre – 074 354 4756

Details of mobilisation

Sonke Gender Justice and Witzenburg Rural Development will be holding a demonstration in front of the Ceres Magistrate Court to demand Justice for David Olyn and to highlight the slow service delivery of government and police.

  • Date: Thursday, 16 October, 2014
  • Time: 8:30am – 11:30am